How to Pay Teachers Dramatically More, Within Budget



By and 07/30/2012

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There’s been a lot of chatter about increasing teacher pay—even doubling it. With the release of TNTP’s The Irreplaceables, talk about paying teachers more and retaining the best will likely increase. Whether or not your political perspective leaves you thinking this is necessary, most people assume it’s a pipe dream given budget and political realities.

Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture team ran the numbers to determine how much more schools could pay teachers—within budget—just by putting excellent teachers in charge of more students’ learning. We found that schools could free funds to pay excellent teachers in teaching roles up to 40 percent more and teacher-leaders up to about 130 percent more, within current budgets and without increasing class sizes. In some variations, schools can pay all teachers more, while further rewarding the best.

The financial analyses covered three of more than 20+ school models on OpportunityCulture.org that use job redesign and technology to extend the reach of excellent teachers to more students, for more pay—Multi-Classroom Leadership, Elementary Specialization, and Time-Technology swaps.

Here are our findings, or read more here in the Financial Summary:

In the Multi-Classroom Leadership model, excellent teachers with leadership skills lead and develop teams of teachers and paraprofessionals to deliver learning that meets the leader’s standard of excellence to multiple classrooms of students. Our calculations show that schools could increase teacher-leader pay between 67% and 134%.

In the Elementary Subject Specialization model, classroom subject specialists teach one or two core subjects in which they excel to two to four classes of students. Schools relieve them of other instructional and noninstructional duties, in part by providing paraprofessional support staff to supervise students during noninstructional time and complete administrative paperwork. Our calculations show that schools could increase teacher pay up to 43% using this model.

In a Time-Technology Swap—Rotation model, students rotate through portions of digital learning (as little as an hour per day) to free the time of excellent teachers to teach more students and potentially to collaborate with peers. Our calculations show that schools could increase teacher pay up to 41% using this model.

In each of these models, teachers have career opportunities dependent upon their excellence, leadership, and student impact. Advancement allows more pay and greater reach. These models also create collaborative teams and enable stronger professional development by making time available during the school day.  We call this an Opportunity Culture, explained in this infographic.

The analyses spell out the savings and costs of the three models. When teachers reach more students, additional per-pupil funds become available to support those teachers’ work. This additional funding, minus new costs for technology and paraprofessional support, can be used for higher pay and other priorities, according to the values, needs, and priorities of each school.

Though the pay increases and savings made possible for any specific school will depend on local factors, these briefs provide a starting point for districts, schools, and teachers to develop their own projections.  Even splitting that benefit 50-50 between teachers and schools’ other financial needs, the pay increase potential remains large.

It’s important to remember that by almost any measure, there is a large distribution of teacher performance, and that performance differences matter enormously for students. Top-25 percent teachers produce well over a year of learning annually, on average. Kids who have them consistently can catch up from behind. Those in the middle can surge ahead, becoming honors students. But consistent access to excellent teachers is critical.

We know it is tempting in tough economic times to focus on the financial savings for schools that extending great teachers’ reach produces. But the personal and professional benefits to excellent teachers—and ones on the cusp of excellence who might get there with stronger daily leadership and development—are paramount. Extend teachers’ reach not just to save money, but first and foremost to put and keep excellent teachers in charge of every student’s learning.

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Note 1: Figures expressed as percentage more than average pay. Schools save more when starting with higher percentages of non-classroom specialists, because savings are higher per class as these teachers’ positions are shifted back into classrooms.

Note 2: Some portion of savings may be reallocated back to all teaching staff or other priorities, not just excellent teachers. Here we show two examples in Multi-Classroom Leadership in which all teachers earn 10 or 25 percent more.

Note 3: The underlying briefs contain calculations and data sources.

-Bryan Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel