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 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.

click to enlarge

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

Comment on this article
  • Michael Langdon says:

    We have heard the terms “merit pay”. It rings in the ear of every teacher with piercing familiarity. If you wanted to improve education outcomes, make parents accountable for the behavior of THEIR children. I know sounds crazy, but the nanny state isn’t going to raise your children.

  • […] the entry-level salary is $100,000 (this is possible within current budgets), what could we expect to happen? First, many top students who want to teach but now choose a […]

  • Jacob W says:

    Very exciting to see this. Remember that merit pay, despite its negative connotations, is definitely “professional.” Just wrote about this on my blog, actually:

  • Dr. Thomas Rosati says:

    Reallocation of teacher caseloads and responsibilities can work well as outlined, but fly in the face of current classroom realities. The master teacher who has more students with less overall contact time, can not influence the grades of those students for their own personal evaluation. The master teacher who had 30 students all day, may have kept a student average of 90 on state testing. Now that they may have 60 students for a half day each, the impact of that teacher is reduced in half. Only half the day with them, and less capability to get to know their student as well, focusing and modifing their teaching to match specific student needs.

    What can be considered a treasonous approach is to go with supply and demand. Elementary education is a college cash cow, with far more highly qualified teachers then could ever be used in schools. If elementary school salaries would start significantly lower, and not max out over 100k but 75k, districts could literally hire two teachers for every one they hire now. The glut of excellent teachers would last a decade or more, and new prospective teachers would look at the benefits of getting secondary school certifications. These are areas where there are less qualified teachers shortages.

  • Susan W. Morrison says:

    In CA, the supply of teachers has imploded. The Baby Boomers are retiring in droves. The college kids choose different careers after hearing about the unhappy conditions that currently prevail for too many public school teachers. So by the law of supply and demand, teacher salaries will need to rise to attract enough teachers to replace the retirees.

  • George Washington says:

    I owned a trucking company with 40 employees, was an engineer for 12 years, a teacher for 15 years and have been a school counselor for 2 years now, so I believe I have enough experience to comment. The inner city school I work at is ranked in the top 5% of schools in the nation according to US News and World Report, while here in AZ were are in the bottom 6% in per pupil spending. The school I work at does everything very, very well. Especially considering it is a tough enough place that I have had a student press a knife to my throat and have been through more than most people could ever imagine. I posted a video response to your YouTube videos for and this article. Here is a text response of that video:
    This video states that the US spends more on education than any other country. This is true. The video then goes on to state that by giving a 40% pay raise to 25% of teachers, those deemed to be good teachers, that the problems with education can be solved. As an example, a good elementary teacher could, through the use of technology, teach three math classes at once. The problem is that 75 to 90 third grade students will not learn anything in an overcrowded class this large. Another example says that the “good” teachers would teach the core subjects and have the poor teachers teach the unimportant subjects. The problem with this is that all classes, when taught properly, contribute equally to a student’s education. A great Art teacher is as important to a student’s development as a great Physics teacher. The good Art teacher will teach history, have students write papers, teach math through the use of perspective, reading of a ruler, as well as teaching students the elements and principles of design and the ability to visualize in three dimensions. My Art classes helped me become a successful engineer just as much as any math class. The video states that the 75% of poor teachers would teach the non-core classes. I believe that if 75% of our teachers are poor teacher, then they should be replaced. I do not believe that the number of ineffective teachers is that high, but for the sake of this argument we will use that figure.
    Now let’s look at the reality of how to properly change education in America so we can compete with the world. Let’s take New Jersey for an example. The median annual salary for a teacher is currently $57,467. The annual per-pupil education expenditures are over $18,000.00. That means in a classroom with 30 student, the cost annually for that classroom in taxed dollars is $18,000.00 X 30 = $540,000.00. With the teacher receiving only about 10% of the annual expenditure per pupil, yet they are doing the most important job in education, and arguably the most important job in the country. It is obvious that the problem is, not enough money being paid to teachers. The video states that if we gave a 40% increase to 25% of our teachers, things would be better. That means 25% of teacher would receive $80,453 and the other would stay at $57,467. When we compare this solution to what other countries pay their teachers, we see where the real problem occurs. Finland is number one in the world when it comes to education. An honor we should clearly aspire too. Finland pays their teachers $150,000 dollars (US) a year. England also beats us and pays salaries similar to Finland. Now let’s look closer to home. Canada pays between $100,000 and $150,000 per year to their teachers. I do not even need to say any more. In any capitalist system, more money produces better results in education. Unfortunately, we are not used to looking to other countries to figure out how to improve America. Well, we have been asleep for too long. It is time to wake up and change or our children will be boarding ships looking for a better life in other countries.
    Clearly there are sufficient funds, but they are not being properly distributed or managed in most states. Although this is the case for most states, there are also many states that simply need to pay more taxes to fund education. New York State spends over $19,000 per pupil per year while Utah spends $6,200. In the end, pay teachers like the professional they are, fund proper sized classes (not 45 kids in a High School math class), fund technology and classroom supplies properly, and you will have made a huge improvement to education in this country.

  • Emily Ayscue Hassel and Bryan C. Hassel says:

    Thanks for your comment. We wanted to set the record straight about what the Opportunity Culture materials posted online actually say. We agree with you that teachers should earn more and that far more of current education spending should flow into teachers’ pockets. But none of our materials advocate for class sizes of 75 – 90, or even half that!

    The basic options, simply put, for extending reach include:
    1) Having elementary teachers specialize in a subject pair (math/science or ELA/social studies), while adding a paraprofessional to each teaching team, with NO class size increase. The paraprofessional would handle many of the tasks that do not add to teachers’ success motivating and instructing children, but that are important functions. This allows higher pay for the teachers, as we show here: Proper scheduling allows daily planning and collaboration time for teachers, as we show here:

    2) Rotating students through age-appropriate digital learning. We really mean age-appropriate: as little as an hour daily allows elementary teachers to reach at least 33 percent more students, again without increasing class size and again adding planning and collaboration time. Secondary students can spend as little as two hours daily online and increase their odds of having an excellent teacher in all four core subjects 50 percent. (Yes, this is also possible in other subjects.) The teachers, in turn, can reach 50% more students and gain 3.5 hours of weekly planning time. Or a teacher can extend his or her reach in just one class, increasing student load just 15 – 20% (still gaining planning time proportionally). The teachers can earn a lot more doing this, as we explain here:

    3) Leading multiple classrooms of teachers by assigning roles that play to each person’s strengths, providing materials and instructional methods for the team, and developing the team on the job. The multi-classroom leader can help the whole team use his/her methods and tools and can help everyone produce excellent results together. If a school chooses the right design, all teachers can earn more and teacher-leaders a lot more:

    All of these options require schools to schedule teachers’ time deliberately to allow grade and subject teams to have daily planning, collaboration and development time. It’s possible in all these models! So, great teachers can lead teams to produce excellent outcomes, and good teachers get to learn from the best. In addition, schools that do these models school-wide reduce their need for non-classroom supplemental teachers, and can return those teachers to classrooms with higher play. This saves a lot of money that can be used to pay all classroom teachers even more. It’s a win for all — all teachers, all students.

    Class sizes are a fourth option. But it is the least compelling, since that alone does not give teachers more time to collaborate, plan and develop peers. It is an option, though, and we trust teams of teachers to make that decision for themselves in collaboration with their principals. In our materials online, we model class sizes of up to 36 but recommend no larger than 34 in secondary school, the average in some high-performing nations. We also advocate for larger class sizes for more pay BY CHOICE – i.e., when excellent teachers choose it and can maintain their learning results.

    Thanks again for your comment. Keep reading, and we’ll improve our materials so that it’s clearer why teachers in the school implementing these models are so excited about these changes!

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