The $100,000 teacher?

ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS! How can we attract, and retain, amazing teaching talent?

At the Corbett Charter School’s presentation at the IERG conference, their principal emphasized that what they do was not “scalable” or “replicable,” “unless you can replicate our teachers.”

That is, this method of schooling (Egan’s Imaginative Education, as interpreted through Corbett Charter School) relies on finding talented individuals to teach — people with drive, and wit, and zeal. Such individuals, famously, can often make much more in private business.

Is one hundred thousand dollars a year enough?

Controversial reformer Michelle Rhee, onetime chancellor of Washington, D.C.’s public school system, offered even more (at least for some teachers whose students improved scores on standardized tests). Per Wikipedia —

In 2008, she also tried to renegotiate teacher compensation, offering teachers the choice of salaries of up to $140,000 based on what she termed "student achievement" with no tenure rights or earning much smaller pay raises with tenure rights retained.

Now, I doubt this proposal could have provided that much money to every teacher in the district — the average wage would be lower.

But could a school, if it wanted to, pay every teacher a hundred grand? (2013 dollars)

And should it? Would it be helpful to attract and retain great talent? Could there be some unintended consequences?

Three closing thoughts:

  1. If we’re able to pay teachers a lot, I’d love to see administrators paid slightly less. That would help instill a fantastic message in the community. Is this just romantic nonsense on my part? Am I ignoring something important?
  2. Eventually, I’d love to see us develop a model that didn’t lean so heavily on the hard work of finding such gifted teachers, if only because I do want to replicate this, and such people are hard to find. But since we’re essentially asking the first generations of teachers to invent this school system along with us, this problem looms large.
  3. I’ll be curious to talk about how we can keep other costs in the school down, to make things like this possible — having the community fulfill some of the roles of the janitor, for example.

Brandon Hendrickson

Seattle, WA