Rock Star Pay for Rock Star Teachers!

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Goldwater Institute released a new study today titled New Millennium Schools: Delivering Six-Figure Teacher Salaries in Return for Outstanding Student Learning Gains. In this report, my coauthors Mark Francis, Greg Stone and I argue that the United States has made a tragic error in emphasizing teacher quantity (through efforts to limit average class size) rather than teacher quality. The growing literature on student learning gains clearly demonstrate that teacher quality trumps the impact of class size variation by a wide margin.

The value added literature has revealed stunning equity issues. We don’t attract enough high ability teachers into the profession, we quickly lose many of those we do to frustration or administration, and we distribute most of the remainder to the leafy suburbs. I don’t have a problem with incentive “combat pay” but let’s face it: it is not enough to simply redistribute the limited number of high quality teachers. We need to attract many more of them.

After exploring foreign and domestic examples of systems that make the opposite choice, we propose a solution: a school model which not only employs value added assessment to identify high achieving teachers, but also splits the additional revenue for students after the 20th with the teacher. We propose a 2/3 teacher, 1/3 school split for the 21st student and beyond. This works out to a $5,200 bonus per child.

With this split, our school delivers a six figure teacher salary at 32 students based upon Arizona’s relatively modest funding for charter schools. A class size of 32 students is hardly outside of the historical practice for American public schools, or even the current practice entirely.

There are many practical issues to consider, and variations on the basic model, so please read the study. I’ll write more about the study in the coming days, but the most important point is this: there is plenty of money in the public school system to treat teachers like true professionals and reward them for excellence.

UPDATE: Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuck points out that principals already covertly increase class sizes for additional pay.

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