We may soon find out. The New York Times reports on a school that’s taking a punt on the growing body of teacher quality research, opting to pay its teachers seriously good salaries.
A New York City charter school set to open in 2009 in Washington Heights will test one of the most fundamental questions in education: Whether significantly higher pay for teachers is the key to improving schools.
The school, which will run from fifth to eighth grades, is promising to pay teachers $125,000, plus a potential bonus based on schoolwide performance. That is nearly twice as much as the average New York City public school teacher earns, roughly two and a half times the national average teacher salary and higher than the base salary of all but the most senior teachers in the most generous districts nationwide.
The schoolâ€™s creator and first principal, Zeke M. Vanderhoek, contends that high salaries will lure the best teachers. He says he wants to put into practice the conclusion reached by a growing body of research: that teacher quality â€” not star principals, laptop computers or abundant electives â€” is the crucial ingredient for success. …
The school will open with seven teachers and 120 students, most of them from low-income Hispanic families. … Its classes will have 30 students. In an inversion of the traditional school hierarchy that is raising eyebrows among school administrators, the principal will start off earning just $90,000. In place of a menu of electives to round out the core curriculum, all students will take music and Latin. Period.
Even in Australia, the tradeoff between class size and teacher salary isn’t trivial. According to the most recent Employee Earnings and Hours Survey (from May 2006), the average teacher earns $1216 a week, or $63,000 per year. If Australian states raised class sizes from their current level of about 26 children to the Washington Heights School’s level of 30 children, we could immediately raise average teacher salaries to $73,000 – encouraging talented people to enter and stay in the profession.