Teacher pay and graduation

Success on fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading tests is the strongest indicator that students will go on to graduate from high school, according to a report released Tuesday by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.

What it does not say, but what everyone knows, is the best way to predict which kids will read well by fourth grade is to visit their homes, looking to see whether anyone there tends to regularly read books, newspapers and magazines.

That same study will doubtless displease the teacher unions, as it also finds "Teachers' salaries have absolutely no correlation to high school graduation," said researcher Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis, which produced the report.

Mr. Aguero said that -- based on an examination of data from the U.S. Census, the U.S. Department of Education and national standardized tests in all 50 states and the District of Columbia ­-- "as teachers' salaries go up, it has no effect whatsoever on graduation rates." Unless teacher pay is tied to student performance, arguments for improving teacher pay are "essentially white noise. ... To suggest that money by itself is the single determinant of education outcomes or achievement I think turns a blind eye to reality."

Steve Hill, a member of the chamber's Government Affairs Committee, said that as they seek to focus on improving fourth grade reading performance, some states have ended social promotion in grade school. Duh.

It's been three centuries since the French playwright Moliere gave us charlatans spouting Latin phrases and other double-talk to convince their victims of their superior knowledge. Modern government schooling similarly aims to get us to abandon our common sense as we pour more and more billions into an enterprise run by "experts" that still doesn't seem to be able to teach reading as well as an untrained mom helping her 5-year-old sound out the letters of the alphabet.

This is not rocket science. End the public school monopoly, encourage parental choice. Drill kids on phonics. Insist that parents be allowed to visit classrooms to see the sounds of the 26 letters being taught. End social promotion, of course.

Finally, encourage parents to teach their kids to read before sending them to school, allowing kids to "test out" and move forward one extra grade every three years, so the bright and the motivated can garner a high school diploma by age 14 and get on with their lives -- putting them about on par with attentive students in Europe and Japan.