Virginia Postrel describes recent research in the issue of teacher pay and teacher quality. One paper is by Sean P. Corcoran and others. Postrel summarizes the results as:

the chances of getting a really smart teacher have gone down substantially. In 1964, more than one out of five young female teachers came from the top 10 percent of their high school classes. By 2000, that number had dropped to just over one in 10.

The average has stayed about the same because schools aren’t hiring as many teachers whose scores ranked at the very bottom of their high school classes. Teachers aren’t exactly getting worse. They’re getting more consistently mediocre.

Another paper, by Carolyn Hoxby and others, looks at whether the loss of high-aptitude women from the teaching profession is due to the “pull” of better opportunities elsewhere or the “push” of unionized wage compression in teaching. According to Postrel,

they find that wage compression explains a huge 80 percent of the change. If women from top colleges still earned a premium as teachers, a lot more would go into teaching.

Postrel concludes

In hiring teachers, we get what we pay for: average quality at average wages.

For Discussion. In the previous post, I pointed out that in health care we “get what we pay for,” which is not exactly what we want. Why do so many Americans distrust market-based education and health care, if the result that we “get what we pay for” is contrary to what people want in those fields?