The Dim-Post

January 10, 2012

Chart of the day, no dark sarcasm edition

Filed under: education — danylmc @ 6:39 am

Andrew Sullivan linked to this LSE study into the effect of teacher pay on educational outcomes (conclusion: you pay teachers more, they teach better). What struck me was the position New Zealand occupies on this chart.

We’re an outlier. One of the best performing education systems, but we spend less than any other high performer. We’re the best in the world at maximising value from our investment in education. According to the government, this is the system that is in crisis and needs radical reform. And look at the US and UK, the models that National draws its policy ideas from.

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48 Comments »

  1. It is better to destroy education in this country in the name of choice and the market than persevere with this abomination to the purity of the system.

    Comment by Sanctuary — January 10, 2012 @ 7:16 am

  2. Another thing – look at Israel, and to think the prime minister’s chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman was on the radio the other day extolling that country as having a “knowledge economy” we should try and emulate. Let’s hope his advise to John Key is based on better facts than the ones where his views on where we should seek inspiration for educating our workforce come from.

    Comment by Sanctuary — January 10, 2012 @ 7:20 am

  3. If you read the full article at http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/cp352.pdf you’ll notice that the
    OCED data they used to determine these placements is 10-20 years old.

    I thought that all the newspapers for the past ten years have been telling us that our educational system has been getting worse and worse?

    Comment by John W — January 10, 2012 @ 7:38 am

  4. One of the advantages of NZ Education has been the development of innovations starting from the grass roots, then researched and implemented through the cooperative nature of teachers.
    Until National Standards were imposed by politicians. But wait. There is more. Performance pay to stop cooperation and innovation. League Tables to destroy schools. Charter Schools to put the boot in.
    Expect Andrew Sullivan’s graph to have NZ’s place plummet over the next few years. But worth it to smash the “union” influence.

    Comment by ianmac — January 10, 2012 @ 7:39 am

  5. Based on experiences in Tertiary Id like to posit that hese readings look good – but the issue is how we are underserving a vulnerable and increasing minority who have clearly passed through teh system and emerge still requiring basic skills. It is dangerous to swallow this and seek to assert thereofre that everything is rosy in the garden when plainly it is not.

    Comment by Eric Blair — January 10, 2012 @ 8:17 am

  6. That article (from which this graph has been plucked without a lot of context, satire Danyl, stick to it) seems a bit strange. It offers two theories to explain the general trend of more pay = better teacher performance.

    One of these theories is that as the pay level of teachers rises (relative) the demand for teaching jobs increases therefore the competition, and quality of successful teacher applicants rises. The other is that as the pay level of teachers rise, the perceived increase in social standing of teachers increases, therefore leading to… greater demand for teaching positions and therefore the quality of teachers rise….

    Both theories sound remarkably similar, but are suggested as two different reasons…. What am I missing?

    Comment by Bed Rater — January 10, 2012 @ 8:28 am

  7. John W,

    The Data Appendix of the full article ( which is a Wiley-published link at the bottom of the summary you link to ) indicates that much of the data is from OECD 1997to 2009. Unusually for Wiley, the complete paper is freely available.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — January 10, 2012 @ 8:35 am

  8. Oh, c’mon. This is wildly over-interpreted. To quote some of the peer discussion of the original article.

    “The authors point to a number of possible channels for explaining the effect of teachers’ quality on pupils’ performance, such as the role of ability/competition, teachers playing a role model for kids, etc., but ultimately they can’t separate them out. This leaves room for multiple interpretations for their findings as well as preventing them from making stronger policy recommendations.” (Luigi Pistaferri of Stanford University)

    “In a nutshell, this paper lacks evidence on the cross-country correlation between teacher quality and teacher pay … controlling for country fixed effects does not fix the problem of omitted variables that could cause both an increase in teacher pay and in educational performance of students … the results of the paper are over-interpreted as a causal relationship.” (Yann Algan)

    We should apply normal scientific standards to social sciences research like this. This is a cross-country regression, on convenient data, that omits most educational theory and cross-cultural theory. It claims causation that it cannot show. And there is a logical tension between claiming that the regression is valid while the outliers are a concern. I don’t think it passes muster on its own – although if combined with other, more theoretically informed work, it could then become helpful.

    Comment by Vibenna — January 10, 2012 @ 8:40 am

  9. In a nutshell, this paper lacks evidence on the cross-country correlation between teacher quality and teacher pay

    Entirely irrelevant to the point Danyl is making, which is “New Zealand’s educational system performs comparatively very well and pays teachers comparatively very little”.

    Comment by derp de derp — January 10, 2012 @ 8:47 am

  10. Danyl’s point is I suspect a simple one. There are 26 countries on the graph. New Zealand teachers are paid less (in $US dollars) than in fifteen of them, yet we are out performed in score percentiles by only two. The conclusions are obvious.

    Comment by Sanctuary — January 10, 2012 @ 8:50 am

  11. In New Zealand we hate good news. It annoys us. Fear of crime is way higher than actual crime… that can’t be true, who wrote this pack of lies… we’re not corrupt… oh come on, that’s totally ridiculous… our education ranking is really good… yeah but I had this really crap teacher at school.

    Our education system has not been getting worse and worse.
    Our issue is the long tail of underachievement as Eric Blair states.
    It is too simplisitic to say that pay determines quality in education. The widely admired Finland is in the same ball park in terms of pay for teachers, and we are in the same ballpark as them for achievement. The similarities between the Finnish and New Zealand education system are notable in terms of conditions, and approach to education. To reach the very top and be the world leader in education we need to address our long tail. Currently John Key is indicating that charter schools will be focused on this issue. The first model schools will be successful, but
    (a) if the system spreads it will be detrimental to our overall education system and our community spirit, and
    (b) we will slip down the academic rankings

    John Key will have left the building at this point, but I will still be teaching so it concerns me.

    Comment by John-Paul — January 10, 2012 @ 8:55 am

  12. 1. What the hell is ‘pupil score percentile’ exactly? Score of what? Mean, median, mode, tail included or excluded?
    Defining ‘best performing’ would be a good idea. In most taxpayers’ minds, including the fate of the failing tail would be crucial to any definition.

    2. Let’s not forget that all incomes, especially professional and seim-professional incomes, in New Zealand are low in terms of international purchasing power. We stay because we like it here despite the relatively poor disposable income.

    Comment by mary — January 10, 2012 @ 9:07 am

  13. @mary – there is a link provided to the full OECD report – http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/61/2/48631582.pdf – perhaps you could try finding out the answer for yourself instead of trying to slag off the conclusions from a position of ignorance?

    Nice touch on throwing in “taxpayers” but you only get extra brownie points if you can lever in “right thinking” as well.

    Comment by Sanctuary — January 10, 2012 @ 9:16 am

  14. Well, to highlight the dangers of using this data …

    … as John-Paul states, we have a long tail. The original article notes that one effect of increasing teacher’s pay is to increase the variability in student performance. In other words, you get more low performers as well as more high performers So if we accept the article’s analysis, we could conclude that if we reduced teacher’s salaries instead, there would be less variability in student performance and thus fewer failures ! This is obviously an absurd conclusion, but it follows from the logic and the analysis in the article. So I think it dangerous to draw conclusions from Figure 1 on its own. Much more consideration of individual country situations and educational theory is needed.

    Comment by Vibenna — January 10, 2012 @ 9:22 am

  15. As others have pointed out, the merits or otherwise of the study aren’t really relevant to the point of the post, which is: our position on that graph contradicts the govt’s propaganda that teachers are overpaid and the education system is in crisis.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — January 10, 2012 @ 9:38 am

  16. No one denies we have a long tail. The question is how we go about fixing it. On one hand, you have crackpot ideas from failed U.S. and U.K. models that happen to align with the prejudices of a bunch of local wingnuts. On the other hand you have a well organised, self-governing teaching profession chock full of educational experts delivering outstanding bang for the buck.

    For some reason, our government appears to favour the solutions of thee former over the advice of the latter.

    Comment by Sanctuary — January 10, 2012 @ 9:45 am

  17. Is our “long tail” longer than other countries, though?

    Interestingly this also seems to give the lie to the idea that the way to transform New Zealand’s economy is through more/better education. Seems we’re already getting world-leading education, so that’s not the factor missing from the country’s economic performance.

    Comment by Hugh — January 10, 2012 @ 10:04 am

  18. “On the other hand you have a well organised, self-governing teaching profession chock full of educational experts delivering outstanding bang for the buck.

    “For some reason, our government appears to favour the solutions of thee former over the advice of the latter.”

    Perhaps it may have something to do with the fact that the tail developed while the former have been in charge and, thus far, their attempts to change it have been unsuccessful. What’s the problem with letting others have a go? Church schools had a good record with Maori education in the first 70 years of the 20th century. I and most of my colleagues don’t assume we have a monopoly on good ideas in our trade. Why should state sector teacher unions assume they do in theirs?

    Our excellent overall achievement rankings occur not in spite of what we spend on education but because of what we spend (in total) on education. Our education expenditure (public and private) totaled 6.7% of GDP in 2005 (the latest year for which I have a figure) behind only Denmark and the US. Australia, by comparison spent 5.8% of GDP. Just concentrating on teachers salaries is not necessarily the best indicator of the importance we place on education as a society. Or has the Dim Post been contracted out to one of the teacher unions over the holidays?

    The figures above come from an interesting book I discovered in a Melbourne bookshop recently. Its called How Australia Compares and looks at Australia’s perfomance relative to the rest of the world(usually pretty good) over a wide range of sectors. It also illustrates that the Australian’s have an even greater obsession with relative performance than we do.

    Comment by Tinakori — January 10, 2012 @ 10:23 am

  19. @Hugh – a great point. The problem isn’t the education kids leave school with. It is the utter failure of our business leaders to invest in workplace training. Employers in this country are locked into a low-productivity, low wage model where they rule over a docile workforce of inter-changable drones like so many feudal Lords of yore. Look at the behaviour of Tony Gibson in the current POAL dispute. he has no interest in negotiating in good faith for a high wage, high skilled, high productivity workplace in partnership with his workforce. He simply wishes to smash the union, casualise the workforce and add or discard workers at his management perogative. His attitude is absolutely representative of the post-ECA management mindset.

    Compared to my experiences in the UK (and anecdotally from friends in Aussie) bosses simply will not send their staff on training courses in this country. I am convinced that most employers in this country when presented with a list entitled “Essential Paid Training” actually read the words “Expensive Paid Holidays”, because that is how they seem to treat training requests.

    The biggest educational failure in this country is in ongoing, post secondary/tertiary, vocational training for the workplace.

    Comment by Sanctuary — January 10, 2012 @ 10:35 am

  20. Perhaps it may have something to do with the fact that the tail developed while the former have been in charge and, thus far, their attempts to change it have been unsuccessful. What’s the problem with letting others have a go?

    Well, we know that the development of that long tail has to do with social and economic factors, not educational ones, so expecting teachers or schools to overcome that with their existing resources is wildly overoptimistic. We can also safely assume that further depriving them of resources by siphoning public education funding off into private hands is likely to make that situation worse.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — January 10, 2012 @ 10:43 am

  21. is the govt proposing “radical reform”?

    The university system needs some radical reform but I can’t see any party suggesting it.

    I’m a bit sceptical of these straight line comparisons. i don’t think comparing the educaion systems of countries such as France and the US is all the straight forward. (France’s total teacher renumeration package is, as for all public servants, much more than their pay).

    Israel has a better secondary school completion rate than us.

    Comment by NeilM — January 10, 2012 @ 10:58 am

  22. So we’re getting better results than Switzerland at less cost to the taxpayer. Result!

    Comment by Rick Rowling — January 10, 2012 @ 11:13 am

  23. This might add to the discussion, and the post: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/

    An interesting read.

    Comment by Spitfire — January 10, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

  24. “Well, we know that the development of that long tail has to do with social and economic factors, not educational ones, so expecting teachers or schools to overcome that with their existing resources is wildly overoptimistic. We can also safely assume that further depriving them of resources by siphoning public education funding off into private hands is likely to make that situation worse.”

    So teachers have everything to do with the success but nothing to do with the failure? I think you can also change “safely assume” in that sentence to “smugly assume”

    Comment by Tinakori — January 10, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

  25. A lot of what’s trumpeted as success isn’t down to the teachers either. A decile 10 school would still turn out high achievers if you stacked it with the worst teachers in the country. The fact is there are limits on how much effect the quality of the teacher can have.

    And yes we can safely assume depriving a system of resources will make it worse if the problems it has are due to insufficient resources. It’s not a difficult concept.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — January 10, 2012 @ 12:40 pm

  26. http://xkcd.com/925/

    Comment by R Singers — January 10, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

  27. My first thought was, “What’s up with Switzerland?” What a strange country. I’m not surprised at New Zealand. Our teachers work hard (apart from some of the young females in primary schools) and put a lot of effort into what they do and, in a lot of cases, go above and beyond. Beth Keoghan, for example, the mother of the Amazing Race host Phil. She is brilliant and really into her music. An amazing lady!

    Comment by Daniel Lang — January 10, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

  28. Alternatively, we could cut teacher pay and put more into IT resources for schools.

    Hey presto, we’d look EVEN BETTER on the chart.

    Comment by Phil — January 10, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

  29. @27 “apart from some of the young females in primary schools”

    frysquint.jpg

    Comment by Bels — January 10, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

  30. Sanctuary @19 – You raise an interesting question as to whether a school system producing sound prima facie test (or national standards) results actually delivers better life outcomes for its students in the long run.

    Some US boffins have crunched the numbers on 2.5 million students between 1989 and 2009 and found a link.

    The Slate article below summarises the findings. (I apologise for being unable to paste a hyperlink. I blame my shoddy education).

    http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_dismal_science/2012/01/good_elementary_school_teachers_they_really_can_change_your_life_.html?fb_ref=sm_fb_plugin_activity

    Comment by Waldo — January 10, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

  31. I came back to my PC to find the browser still on this, and I had a thought. Danyl your conclusion is erroneous. It is more likely that the higher the salaries for teachers the better the calibre of people you attract.

    Comment by R Singers — January 10, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

  32. leaving 20% of kids behind is OK huh.

    Comment by merv — January 10, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

  33. I believe Bruce Jesson used to say- only their purpose is mad. Here everything is mad, if you are a New Zealand parent, citizen or taxpayer.

    Comment by sheesh — January 10, 2012 @ 7:39 pm

  34. Click on “like” and “roffles” buttons for comment 28. Otherwise, this comment intentionally left blank to subscribe to “Notify me of follow-up comments via email”

    Comment by Clunking Fist — January 10, 2012 @ 8:09 pm

  35. Education is one of New Zealand’s highest performing sectors yet it is getting the full reform treatment by the government while areas that really need to be addressed are ignored:
    http://localbodies-bsprout.blogspot.com/2011/12/government-attacks-new-zealands-highest.html

    Comment by Dave Kennedy — January 10, 2012 @ 11:18 pm

  36. Hugh @ 17
    “Interestingly this also seems to give the lie to the idea that the way to transform New Zealand’s economy is through more/better education. Seems we’re already getting world-leading education, so that’s not the factor missing from the country’s economic performance.”

    I think Peter Gluckman in Sanctuary’s comment @ 2 is probably a good place to start. Israel pours a fantastic quantity of money into Research and Development and actively encourages university and private sector cooperation. Both they and the United States, Britain and France also indirectly give massive subsidies to their high tech sector via military spending – apparently taxpayers in a democracy resent spending lots of money on scientists and engineers, but convince them you’re spending the money on bombs and tanks to kill people and they are cool with it. All of this is post secondary – by comparison New Zealand has little in the way of a high tech sector and could do with rebalancing in that direction – what use is working to get a degree in computer science or robotic engineering if the big money is to be made in milking cows and buying investment properties.

    Comment by Richard29 — January 11, 2012 @ 10:26 am

  37. The data may be old, but it hasn’t changed – NZ currently ranks 4th in the OECD for education, and NZ teachers still get paid well below the OECD average.

    Comment by Jane Blaikie (@EducationNZ) — January 11, 2012 @ 10:36 am

  38. Figures 5.3 and 5.4 on pages 10 and 11 of this OECD report on social mobility are interesting as well.

    http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/2/7/45002641.pdf

    New Zealand is something of an outlier – we have a fairly low degree of social mobility – how your parents did is very strongly predictive of how you will do (fig 5.3) but we seem unusual in terms of the degree to which individual socio-economic background determines this rather than the school system.

    This resonates with an argument I once heard:

    “We don’t have an education problem, we have a poverty problem which is visible in the education statistics”

    Comment by Richard29 — January 11, 2012 @ 10:43 am

  39. Aside from the crucial tail problem, our traditional comparative weakness is numbers. In the TIMMS 2007 study, 26% of our year 5 students reached the “high international benchmark” in maths, compared to 35% in Australia and 48% in England; we were particularly weak at applications. We’ve known this for ages, and we’ve trained our teachers and allotted classroom time accordingly, and somewhat at the expense of science. It’s helped our maths scores, but we’re still mediocre, and now our science scores are showing signs of decline. What our principals are complaining about are, firstly, a lack of science labs (only 8% of year five students are in a school with a science lab, and unsurprisingly they did significantly better), and secondly, a lack of computers, software, and support staff. I wouldn’t begrudge either hiring more teachers or paying teachers more, but if funds are limited I’d be building labs, buying software, and hiring nerd university students to help out part-time.

    Comment by bradluen — January 11, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

  40. Aw, c’mon, everyone knows that NZ teachers are constantly plotting against dearly held National Party beliefs.

    The fact that NZ has one of the best education systems on the planet is irrelevant to National Party ideologues.

    The white might is right based on Victorian and Edwardian imperial values is very strong in the National Party. That a buccaneering money trader is their leader is hardly surprising.

    Capitalists do not get hurt by destroying children, capitalists only get hurt by having to pay taxes.

    Guess where short term thinking ex money traders are going to head in an environment of a 3 year parliamentary term.

    The real criminals are the Labour Party that let themselves drift so far away from their power base in the nine years they had in power. Overdosing on “third ways” and “focus groups” is not politically very sensible

    Comment by peterlepaysan — January 11, 2012 @ 10:21 pm

  41. So teachers have everything to do with the success but nothing to do with the failure?

    Actually, yes.

    As previously pointed out in this thread, the “tail” has more to do with social and economic policies than it has to do with our efficacy as educators. So, no matter how badly Tinakori would like to bash teachers for something that has little to do with them, not much is likely to change. Unless, perhaps, we build into the performance criteria of teachers measures of their effectiveness at sorting out dysfunctional families and feeding kids properly so that they can then learn effectively.

    That won’t be an issue for some teachers because they are already doing it.

    Comment by Neil — January 14, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

  42. @ 15 “As others have pointed out, the merits or otherwise of the study aren’t really relevant to the point of the post, which is: our position on that graph contradicts the govt’s propaganda that teachers are overpaid and the education system is in crisis.”

    With this type of statement, is it any wonder we struggle to reach consensus on our points of view.

    The “merits or otherwise” of a study is crucial in determining if what you are looking at is in fact “real”.

    The point of the post is rightly that New Zeland is an interesting data point on the picture, but the the comments that you so eagerly dismiss concerns themselves mostly with the accuracy and value of the graph. Even if the graph contradicts the statements by the goverment (and it is a stretch), does the facts support the graph?

    Comment by cj_nza — January 16, 2012 @ 9:17 am

  43. The point of the post is rightly that New Zeland is an interesting data point on the picture, but the the comments that you so eagerly dismiss concerns themselves mostly with the accuracy and value of the graph.

    No, the comments that I dismiss concern the conclusions the authors of the report drew about the relationship between teacher pay and student performance. Those criticisms may well be correct and the correlation not causal after all, but that doesn’t alter the interesting position we occupy on that graph or the conclusion specific to NZ that we can draw from it.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — January 16, 2012 @ 10:34 am

  44. We can draw a country specific conclusion based on a, possible inaccurate, pretty picture? Surely a critique by the study’s own authors is worth noting?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — January 16, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

  45. As someone else has pointed out, but I cannot locate it here (it may have been said in another set of comments), we need to be careful about comparing _absolute_ numbers rather than _relative_ numbers. Yes NZ ranks 4th in OECD education, but the teacher pay rates, while low in _absolute_ terms, are probably reasonably equivalent in relative terms.

    As an example, a few years ago, I was on study leave in Zurich, one of the most expensive cities in the world. I was awarded a stipend based on my NZ salary. In equivalent terms, I was paid less for my NZ salary than a post-doctoral fellow was paid in Switzerland, and I was eligible for the maximum stipend. The stipend was more per month than my NZ salary!

    NZ salaries are _all_ low by international standards, but so are our food costs, for example. I once was buying some milk in Michigan, one of the main dairy-producing states, and the milk there was more expensive by a fair bit. I was buying bananas in the Hunter Valley another time, and could not believe how much more expensive food was in Oz.

    So my point is that we should not be comparing absolutes in dollar terms, because it will skew the results. We have some lifestyle factors that continue to attract immigrants to our shores despite our lower pay rates. So we should be comparing relative pay scales, not absolute pay rates.

    Comment by David in Chch — January 16, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

  46. Tourism in New Zealand has been in slight decline for the previous three of four years because of our high cost of food, petrol, alcohol and tobacco.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — January 16, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

  47. Tinakori needs correction: he states that our spending on education as a proprtion of GDP is very high (half-truth) and implies that our schools and teachers should be doing well. If the figures are broken down, NZ in fact overspends grotesquely on shonky tertiary crap to keep much of our youth off the unemployment rolls, and, by OECD standards, does NOT spend generously on pre-school, primary/secondary education, nor on the universities, the true driver of tertiary value.
    Half-truths like Tinakori’s are effectively lies.

    Comment by John Elliott — January 17, 2012 @ 10:27 pm

  48. “46.Tourism in New Zealand has been in slight decline for the previous three of four years because of our high cost of food, petrol, alcohol and tobacco.”

    Are you sure it’s not the high cost of NZ accomodation coupled with British and American unease about job security?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — January 18, 2012 @ 12:57 pm


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