Investing In Teachers

05charter600 I'm a public policy geek. I get excited by trying out new policy programs and seeing what happens. I can't help it.

I'm awfully curious how this program in Washington Heights is going to work out. My buddy, Suze, has been telling me about it. She should have applied for it. (Stern look at you, Suze.) And thanks to Laura B. for sending me the article.

The idea behind the school is that highly quality teachers make a difference. If you find the best and pay them high salaries, then the kids will learn more. So, this school will pay their teachers $125,000 per year.

They are members of an eight-teacher dream team, lured to an innovative charter school that will open in Washington Heights in September with salaries that
would make most teachers drop their chalk and swoon; $125,000 is nearly
twice as much as the average New York City public school teacher earns,
and about two and a half times as much as the national average for teacher salaries. They also will be eligible for bonuses, based on schoolwide performance, of up to $25,000 in the second year.

…To make ends meet, teachers will hold responsibilities usually
shouldered by other staff members, like assistant principals (there
will be none). There will be no deans, substitute teachers (except for
extended leaves) or teacher coaches. Teachers will work longer hours
and more days, and have 30 pupils, about 6 more than the typical New
York City fifth-grade class.

Predictions, people. Will this program succeed?

6 thoughts on “Investing In Teachers

  1. The lack of assistant principals, deans and teacher coaches will probably do more to make the school run better than the pay and bonuses do :).
    It’s an interesting contrast with the Ellmore-approved approach. That’s, if you like, industrialized teaching: standardized, interchangeable, even quality circles. This is artisanal teaching.
    I’d like it to succeed.


  2. No substitutes? Do they have classroom aides who could step forward in case of short illnesses? Otherwise, it’s madness.
    If it’s a very small school, I think it may work. Otherwise, they’re going to need more infrastructure (i.e. if something goes horribly wrong in class, you need back-up, especially with larger class sizes).


  3. You can take back your stern look–I’m not certified to teach 5th grade. Also, in order to be considered, you needed to have demonstrable results, over a period of years, that you had improved the test performance of your students. New teachers need not apply (unfortunately, that’s true for the entire city this year–hiring freeze).
    I think it may be an interesting experiment, and I wish them well. However, it can’t measure what the buzz is about measuring–whether paying teachers a high salary (to attract better ones) is THE difference. Students in this school will have parents who applied to put them in this presumably excellent program, so that right there destroys the premise. You know that the parents were involved enough and informed enough and committed enough to place their kids there, and perhaps that is the bigger factor.
    The better experiment would be to replace the entire faculty of, say, Graphics HS or one of the MLK campus high schools, with a faculty of highly paid (and presumably better qualified) teachers. Leave the student body untouched. The problem would be that in schools such as those, you can’t get rid of some of the APs or deans who deal with discipline or the security guards because of safety issues.
    Giving up APs, deans, etc. for 120 5th graders doesn’t seem like much of a challenge. Teachers’ planning periods will likely be sacrificed when another teacher is sick, which might work fine if it’s only 1 teacher out for a day or two, otherwise…


  4. Isn’t this just re-arranging deck chairs? I mean, chances are this program will be a huge success, because they’ve lured a good chunk of great teachers. But, they’ve lured them from other places, and the quality of those other schools’ programs will likely drop as a result.
    The problem with this idea is that its not scalable. Anyone can succeed if they are working with the BEST. But not everyone can have the best, so what’s the point?


  5. “The problem with this idea is that its not scalable. Anyone can succeed if they are working with the BEST. But not everyone can have the best, so what’s the point?”
    Well, it’s whether if you pay teachers 125K and give them bigger class sizes, more administrative duties, and less time off (including sick leave), whether you can create a work force that produces better out comes. That doesn’t require you to have the “best.” Only the “very good”, and the very good who would have other options to earn 125K. It might not be scalable, ’cause we might not be willing to pay all the teachers 125K (i.e. school population/30 X 125K, probably being more than we spend). But, if it could really be successful, we should consider it. Lots of people think it won’t be, and thus, it’s a worthwhile experiment.


  6. I think they will be worth every penny. I’d love to see teachers make more money. But they have to excel and push and be worth it and be the best. Being good is not good enough.
    I’d also like to see accountability for crappy teachers and their immediate removal. The article points out that an exceptional teacher can be 150% more effective. That is nuts and I would love to see the curriculum of teaching to see where they got this. Maybe it was apples to apples in the same school.
    I feel that tenure, while providing security, has created so many more layers of bureaucracy to remove the bad teachers from payroll. Check out this article:
    And this stat: “Take 2007, when out of 55,000 tenured teachers 10 were fired for poor performance. That’s 0.02 percent. ”
    That sounds like a job at GM and look where it is now. We need to do better.
    I want better students too. I want kids excited and willing to learn in a safe environment and not going to school for daycare. I want parents that don’t just turn on the tv and feed ready made meals to their kids but engage and challenge them.


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