A new study reveals a striking relationship between a state's average teacher pay and average student performance on college entrance tests, like the ACT.
In states where teachers are paid the most, such as Connecticut and others in the Northeast, students in 2018's graduating class scored a 25.6 on average, with 36 being perfect. Teacher salary averages in that region are in the top five highest in the nation with an average wage of $77,455.
States with lower salaries like Mississippi, which has the lowest teacher pay rate average at $45,574, also had the lowest average ACT score at 18.6.
The study by Brainly, a social networking educational/technology company based in New York, delved into each state's information, comparing the National Education Association's estimated state averages for public school teacher salaries in 2018-19 to the state averages for the ACT and SAT scores for the class of 2018.
Alabama ranks 46th in ACT average at 19, and 40th in teacher salary average at $50,810, according to the study.
Most local school districts in Colbert and Lauderdale counties, and the municipal districts within those counties, surpassed the state pay average with only one — Tuscumbia — falling below the average state pay at $48,300.
The highest paid teachers in the Shoals are in Florence with an average salary of $54,700. ACT scores in Florence are also among the highest, on average at 25.
Muscle Shoals schools have the highest ACT average in the area at 26 with teacher salaries averaging $52,600.
Lauderdale County has the second highest teacher average pay at $54,141 and an ACT average of 25.
Florence Superintendent Jimmy Shaw said it isn't a complicated formula. Better pay attracts higher quality teachers.
"The main thing is you have less turnover, so you keep those good teachers when you're paying a good, competitive salary," he said.
"We're not unlike industries where the people are your success. Our district can offer a competitive teacher salary because our city and our taxpayers allow us to pay above the state salary matrix to attract and keep the good teachers."
Shaw said the loss of good teachers is a loss to the whole system, thus he and his staff are constantly looking at what surrounding districts are paying.
"We also believe in professional development for our teachers because that ultimately translates into successful students, and we never want our kids to lose that advantage," Shaw said.
Muscle Shoals Superintendent Brian Lindsey said studies like this one prove the value of good teachers.
"At the end of the day it comes down to us having to put our resources into that classroom teacher, who in turn, pours into those students," Lindsey said. "We value these teachers and strive to keep our pay competitive."
Lindsey said his district's commitment to teachers resulted in a 7 percent raise for them four years ago when the school district added to the state's raise.
Likewise, state raises affect local money, he said. When a state raise is given, the district must provide raises for those locally funded teachers, which numbers 18 in Muscle Shoals.
"We want student success, and that means teachers must be successful in the classroom," Lindsey said. "Those two things definitely go together."