Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Improving Math Skills

Free Exchange cites new research showing better math skills lead to about a 15% increase in wages of black males since changes were made to required curricula. The theory is that there were high margins for gain for black students because their access to basic math classes had been limited. Great. So let's get more teachers and teach more math at advanced levels. Not so simple. Many high school math teachers did not even earn a minor in math at the bachelor's level. Why? Precisely because people with a quantitative degree (and are thus qualified to teach math) can earn higher wages! Those with math degrees (and minors) are busy doing things that earn better money than the parity negotiated by the teachers union. If we could do more in the secondary level to have market-based differentials between math teachers and teachers in fields with less lucrative outside options, then the math teachers we do end up with might be better qualified.

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