University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Raising Teacher Salaries

In The View from the OEP on January 16, 2019 at 1:26 pm

As the legislative session began this week, Rep. Bruce Cozart, R-Hot Springs, introduced a bill that would raise the minimum public school teacher salary in Arkansas from $31,800 to $36,000 over the next four years. Here at OEP we expect the bill to pass, but suggest that while the $60 million investment will lead to greater financial stability for teachers in the affected districts, it likely won’t increase outcomes for their students.

We pulled together some information about which school districts would be raising their salaries and how many teachers would be affected by the raises. We then ask the most important question (at least to us)- “Will raising teacher salaries benefit students?” To get an idea, we looked into the relationship in Arkansas between teacher salaries and teacher supply and turnover, as well as student outcomes of achievement and academic growth.

Which school districts would be affected?

According to the latest teacher salary analysis from the ADE, 33 school districts currently pay the minimum salary for a first year teacher. These districts pay $31,800 to a teacher with a Bachelor’s degree, and $36,450 to a teacher with a Master’s degree. While salaries increase in one-third of these districts, 22 districts continue to pay the minimum salary for teachers with 15 years experience: $38,550 to a teacher with a Bachelor’s degree, and $43,950 to a teacher with a Master’s.

Figure 1: Districts Paying the Minimum Salary, 2017-18.

salary

There are an additional 51 districts that are paying more than the minimum salary, but less than the salary proposed in the bill ($32,800) These districts would have to increase their salaries to meet that proposed minimum.

How many teachers would get raises?

About 2,500 teachers work in the 33 districts that pay a minimum starting salary.  That’s 6.5% of teachers in the state. An additional 4,200 work in districts that would need to raise their salary to meet the new minimum, which means 18% of teachers could see raises.

Would the raises help recruit and retain teachers?

There is good research that recruiting high-quality teachers and retaining them can have a positive effect on students’ learning, but would raising minimum salaries in Arkansas salaries help recruit and retain teachers?

OEP research on Arkansas Teacher Supply found that beginning teacher salary was not a significant predictor of teacher supply.  While districts paying the highest teacher salaries reported receiving more teacher applications than lower paying ones, once other factors like district location were taken into consideration, teacher salary had no effect on the number of applications recieved per open teaching position.

The Arkansas Department of Education has developed a measure of workforce stability for each district. We compared the measure between districts paying the minimum salary and districts paying more, and found a slight difference (minimum =86.9% and higher paying districts= 89.9%). There was also just a slight correlation between base salary and the stability index (r=0.18), so it doesn’t seem that raising the minimum salary would have an impact on the stability of the teacher workforce at the school.

Would teacher raises help kids learn more?

We dug into the relationship between starting teacher salary and student outcomes like academic achievement and academic growth, and found essentially no relationship. Kids in Arkansas learn (or don’t) regardless of the district salary schedule.

For academic achievement, as measured by the 2017-18 ACT Aspire scores, districts with the minimum salary had achievement scores ranging from better than 98 percent of districts statewide to worse than 73 percent. As presented in the figure below, there was a low correlation between achievement and beginning teacher salary (r=0.28), indicating that paying teachers more doesn’t translate into higher test scores for students.

Figure 2: District Starting Salary and Student Achievement, 2017-18.

salary ach

For (our favorite!) academic growth, there was also little relationship with minimum teacher salary.  As we have discussed before, growth is measured by the 2017-18 ACT Aspire scores and reflects how much students improved compared to how much we thought they would improve based on their prior test scores. Districts with the minimum salary had growth scores ranging from better than 99 percent of districts statewide to worse than 77 percent.

As presented in the figure below, there was a low correlation between achievement and beginning teacher salary (r=0.26), indicating that paying teachers more doesn’t translate into better academic growth for students.

Figure 3: District Starting Salary and Student Academic Growth, 2017-18.

salary growth

We want to shout out the districts with the top 5% of growth in the state.  We are including the beginning teacher salary so you can see for yourself how varied pay is among these high-growth districts. We also include the district % FRL and average class size to demonstrate that high student academic growth can happen anywhere!

district salary growth

Hooray for the teachers in these districts that are getting it done for kids!  It’s also important to note that the highest paying districts in the list have the largest average class sizes. This reflects what OEP’s teacher salary research found- that class size was one of the most important factors in teacher pay.

In summary, here at OEP we understand that raising teacher salaries is popular, but suggest that while the $60 million investment will lead to greater financial stability for the teachers in the affected districts, it likely won’t increase outcomes for their students. 

 


Q and A about Arkansas teacher salaries

Q: What is the average teacher salary in Arkansas?

  • $49,615 was the average salary for classroom teachers in Arkansas for school districts including charters (2016-17).

Q: Are teacher salaries in Arkansas higher or lower than in other states?

  • Arkansas’s average teacher salary ranks 40th in the nation but increases to 22nd after adjusting for our state’s low cost of living.
  • Compared to surrounding states, Arkansas’s average teacher salary ranks 3rd, moving up to 2nd among our neighbors after adjusting for cost of living.

Q: Where does the money for teacher salaries come from?

  • Arkansas schools are funded through a funding matrix, which determines the per-student cost of an adequate education. In 2016-17, all schools received $6,646 per student, of which 69% was associated with salaries and benefits for classroom teachers, pupil support staff, school principal, and school secretary. At this funding level, the average teacher salary (and 25% for benefits) could be covered by a class of 13 students. It is important to note, however, that although there is a matrix for funding, there is no matrix for spending, and districts can allocate the funds as they choose.

Q: Who decides how much teachers get paid?

  • Teacher salaries in Arkansas are determined by local school boards. There is a minimum salary enacted by Arkansas Code § 6-17-2403 ($31,400 for 2017-18). The minimum salary has increased in each of the last four years, and the vast majority of districts in the state (87%) pay higher salaries than legally required.  Arkansas teachers typically receive an increase in salary each year and additional increases for further education credits.

Q: What kinds of districts pay higher teacher salaries?

  • Given that districts all receive the same per-pupil funding from the state (read more here), we wondered WHY districts were paying teachers such different salaries. Even after we controlled for differences in experience and education of teachers, and median income of counties, there were still substantial variations in pay between districts. You can read the details in the full report or shorter brief, but we found that districts with lower student : teacher ratios paid lower salaries. In a district that employs 50 teachers, if each teacher’s class was increased by one student, the average teacher salary would be expected to increase by about $1,815, holding all other factors equal.

 

Beating the Odds: High Achieving schools serving Low-Income Populations

In The View from the OEP on December 5, 2018 at 11:36 am

We are so excited to release our “Beating the Odds” Outstanding Educational Performance Awards  for 2018!  These special OEP awards are for schools whose students are demonstrating high academic growth despite serving a population where at least 66% of the students participate in the Free/ Reduced Lunch Program, which is based on low household income.  Schools serving such student populations often struggle to demonstrate high academic achievement, and subsequently receive lower letter grades.

Academic growth, however, is less correlated with school poverty rates and we think it is a better reflection of how the school is impacting students. Growth is calculated at the student level, and essentially reflects how much a student has improved his or her score from the prior year compared to what was predicted based on prior achievement history.While poverty can negatively impact student success, the schools awarded today demonstrate that their students are “Beating the Odds”  The highlights are below, and you can read the full report here.

The OEP Awards highlight schools in Arkansas based on student growth on the ACT Aspire exams in Mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA). We choose to give OEP Awards based on student growth because we think it is the best indicator of how the school is impacting students’ learning.

Although school-level growth scores are much less related to the percentage of students at a school who are participating in Free/Reduced Lunch than achievement scores, a negative correlation does exist (-0.24).  This means that students at schools serving higher poverty populations are more likely than their peers at more affluent schools to demonstrate less academic growth than predicted. As can be seen in the scatter plot below, schools with higher FRL rates are more likely to receive lower growth scores.

Figure 1. Combined Content Growth Score by School % FRL, Arkansas Public Schools, 2018

f1_BTO

If we limit the plot to only those schools with at least 66% of students participating in FRL, as presented in Figure 2, the relationship between poverty and growth essentially disappears. Although all of these schools are serving high poverty populations, there is wide variation in the amount of academic growth that students at the schools are demonstrating.

Figure 2. Combined Content Growth Score by School % FRL, High-Poverty Arkansas Public Schools, 2018

f2_BTO

We celebrate the state using this student-level growth model, and are pleased to be able to highlight how students are growing academically in schools across the state.  We hope that drawing attention to this growth information will spark discussions among stakeholders about the ways to ensure that all schools are growing the knowledge of Arkansas’ students.


“Beating the Odds” Elementary Level Schools

The top “Beating the Odds” elementary school overall is Crawford Elementary from Russellville School District.  Despite serving a student population that is 89% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, Crawford Elementary students are among the top 5 schools that have demonstrated the greatest growth in the state on the ACT Aspire. Many of these top 10 Beating the Odds schools were also among the high growth elementary schools in the state, regardless of student demographics. The top 10 elementary schools that are beating the odds are:

  1. Crawford Elementary, Russellville SD (89% FRL)
  2. Bismarck Elementary, Bismarck SD (71% FRL)
  3. Oscar Hamilton Elementary, Foreman SD (75% FRL)
  4. Parson Hills Elementary, Springdale SD (96% FRL)
  5. John Tyson Elementary, Springdale SD (78% FRL)
  6. Cross County Elementary Tech Academy, Cross County SD (73% FRL)
  7. Des Arc Elementary, Des Arc SD (69% FRL)
  8. Monitor Elementary, Springdale SD (85% FRL)
  9. Sonora Elementary, Springdale SD (74% FRL)
  10. Green Forest Elementary, Green Forest SD (85% FRL)

You can find the top BTO elementary schools by subject and region in the full report.


“Beating the Odds” Middle Level Schools

Oak Grove Middle from Paragould School District is the top middle school beating the odds overall. Oak Grove Middle serves a 5th-6th grade student population where 76% of students are eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, and was among the high growth middle schools in the state, regardless of student demographics.  The top 10 middle schools that are beating the odds are:

  1. Oak Grove Middle, Paragould SD (76% FRL)
  2. Paragould Junior High, Paragould SD (71% FRL)
  3. Cedarville Middle, Cedarville SD (74% FRL)
  4. Pleasant View Campus, Mulberry/Pleasant View Bi-County Schools SD (77% FRL)
  5. Helen Tyson Middle, Springdale SD (76% FRL)
  6. Butterfield Trail Middle, Van Buren SD (71% FRL)
  7. Beryl Henry Upper Elementary, Hope SD (89% FRL)
  8. O. Kelly Middle, Springdale SD (90% FRL)
  9. Little Rock Prep Academy Middle, Little Rock Preparatory Academy (76% FRL)
  10. Mansfield Middle, Mansfield SD (69% FRL)

You can find the top BTO middle schools by subject and region in the full report.


“Beating the Odds” High Schools

The top high school beating the odds is Danville High in Danville School District.  Despite serving a student population that is 70% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, it is also among OEP’s top 20 high growth high schools throughout the state.  Danville High students are demonstrating that they can achieve at levels similar to students who come from higher income communities. The top 10 high schools that are beating the odds are:

  1. Danville High, Danville SD (70% FRL)
  2. Western Yell Co. High, Western Yell County SD (85% FRL)
  3. Cross County High A New Tech, Cross County SD (73% FRL)
  4. Trumann High, Trumann SD (70% FRL)
  5. Shirley High, Shirley SD (81% FRL)
  6. Gosnell High, Gosnell SD (74% FRL)
  7. Des Arc High, Des Arc SD (67% FRL)
  8. Izard Co. Cons. High, Izard County Consolidated SD (70% FRL)
  9. Cave City High Career & Collegiate Preparatory, Cave City SD (79% FRL)
  10. Maynard High, Maynard SD (70% FRL)
  11. Southwest Junior High, Springdale SD (71% FRL)

You can find the top BTO high schools by subject and region in the full report.

Congratulations to all the OEP “Beating the Odds” award winners! 

Keep up the great work and we look forward to recognizing you again next year!


How are OEP awards different?

There are many lists of “Best Schools”, so why is the OEP’s list special?  It’s simple- we use the most recent assessment data and focus on student growth.  We examine growth specifically by content area because we think it is important to examine each subject separately and without including the English Proficiency progress for English Language Learners (which should also be examined separately).  Another difference is that unlike the state performance awards that were given out a few weeks ago, OEP awards are grouped by school level (Elementary, Middle, and High) and by Region (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest, and Southeast).

We celebrate two types of schools this year: “High-Growth” and “Beating the Odds”.  High Growth schools are those whose students demonstrated the highest growth on the ACT Aspire tests, and “Beating the Odds” are the highest growth schools serving low-income communities.

Today’s awards for schools “Beating the Odds” are based on the growth of students on the ACT Aspire Math and English Language Arts assessments.

 

 

Outstanding Educational Performance: High Growth High Schools

In The View from the OEP on November 28, 2018 at 9:41 am

Today’s 2017-18 Outstanding Educational Performance Awards (also known as the OEP Awards) are for High Growth High Schools.   Similar to last year, these awards are based on student growth on the ACT Aspire exams in Mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA). Growth is calculated at the student level, and essentially reflects how much a student has improved his or her score from the prior year compared to what was predicted based on prior achievement history.

After Sunday’s Democrat Gazette article about school letter grades we were asked,

Can schools with high achievement really make growth?”

Today’s list speaks directly to this question.  More than half of the high school receiving OEP awards for growth were also in the top 10% of high schools for achievement.  High achieving schools should worry about growth because if their students aren’t making growth- they are falling behind their peers across the state.

We choose to give OEP Awards based on student growth because we think it is a better reflection of how the school is impacting students rather than proficiency rates.  Proficiency rates, even those that move beyond the ‘percent proficient’ like our OEP GPA and Arkansas’ weighted achievement score, are more correlated with student demographics than growth scores. This means that schools are equally as likely to demonstrate high student growth regardless of the characteristics of the students that they serve.


Highest Growth: High School Level

The top High School level school for overall student growth is LISA Academy North High for the second year in a row, with a growth score of 86.63.  Haas Hall Academy at the Lanes had the highest math growth with a score of 88.05, while Washington Academy from Texarkana School District had the highest growth in ELA at 85.95.

The top 20 High School level schools for overall content growth are:

  1. LISA Academy North High Charter School, LISA Academy (40% FRL)*
  2. Southside Charter High School, Southside SD (Independence) (51% FRL)*
  3. Van Buren Freshman Academy, Van Buren SD (57% FRL)*
  4. Haas Hall Academy At The Lane, Haas Hall Academy (3% FRL)
  5. Haas Hall Academy Jones Center, Haas Hall Academy (0% FRL)
  6. Washington Academy, Texarkana SD (56% FRL)
  7. Eureka Springs High School, Eureka Springs SD (48% FRL)*
  8. Greenbrier Junior High School, Greenbrier SD (35% FRL)*
  9. South Side High School, South Side SD (Van Buren) (57% FRL)
  10. Haas Hall Academy Bentonville, Haas Hall Bentonville (0% FRL)*
  11. Danville High School, Danville SD (70% FRL)*
  12. Dardanelle High School, Dardanelle SD (62% FRL)
  13. Greenwood Freshman Center, Greenwood SD (27% FRL)
  14. Haas Hall Academy, Haas Hall Academy (0% FRL)*
  15. Russellville Jr. High School, Russellville SD (53% FRL)*
  16. Ouachita High School, Ouachita SD (47% FRL)
  17. Hazen High School, Hazen SD (62% FRL)
  18. Arkansas Arts Academy High School, Arkansas Arts Academy (20% FRL)*
  19. Arkansas High School, Texarkana SD (60% FRL)
  20. Concord High School, Concord SD (63% FRL)

*Schools with an asterisk were also on the top 20 list last year! Half of the schools on our list demonstrate that high growth can be achieved year after year. These are schools that are consistently growing student’s academic performance more than would be expected. Excellent Job!!

A variety of schools have shown high growth when observed through the lens of the percentage of students served Free/Reduced Lunch. The proportion of students eligible for FRL among these high-growth schools ranges from a low of 0% to a high of 70%, reflecting how growth is possible for all types of schools!

You can find the high schools with the greatest student growth by subject and region in the full report.

———Stay tuned to learn about more OEP Award Winners!——–

Next week we will release the list of high growth schools serving high poverty populations, those who are “Beating the Odds!”


About OEP Awards:

OEP Awards are different than other awards because we examine growth specifically by content area. We do this because we think it is important to examine each subject separately, as just looking at the combined growth doesn’t provide school leaders with the information that they need. For example, learning that growth in Math is high, but growth in ELA is lagging would provide valuable information about the effectiveness of each program. We limit the growth score to just subject areas, without including the English Proficiency progress for English Language Learners, because this should also be examined separately.  Another difference is that unlike the state performance awards that were given out a few weeks ago, OEP awards for High Schools do not include graduation rate in the growth calculation.  In addition, OEP’s awards are grouped by school level (Elementary, Middle, and High) and by Region (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest, and Southeast).

Overall content growth scores have a mean of 80, and range from 72.4 to 91.6 at the high school level, although when Math and ELA are examined separately, the range increases somewhat (68.5 to 91.6).  Understanding the range of scores is important because small point differences in growth scores can indicate large differences in growth rates – as the standard deviation is only 2.4 points for high schools. 

We celebrate the state using this student-level growth model, and are pleased to be able to highlight how students are growing academically in schools across the state.  We hope that drawing attention to the growth information will spark discussions among stakeholders about how to ensure all schools are growing the knowledge of Arkansas students.

We celebrate two types of schools: “High-Growth” and “Beating the Odds”.  High Growth schools are those whose students demonstrated the highest growth on the ACT Aspire tests, and “Beating the Odds” are the highest growth schools serving low-income communities.