I think that there is alot to be said for this approach. Public education sucks. And a large part of the reason for this is that competent individuals don't want to have such a low standard of living. While it is true that teachers are paid very well given the hours they work and the benefits earned, the money is still a far cry from what a truly capable individual could make while working. If you want to lure teachers into the field, offering the a salary that is less than they might make on Wall Street or Madison Avenue, but is still enough for them to own a home and support a family is critically important. There is a reason why most of those who go into education for the long term work at the college level.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 school’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 — not star principals, laptop computers or abundant electives — is the crucial ingredient for success.
“I would much rather put a phenomenal, great teacher in a field with 30 kids and nothing else than take the mediocre teacher and give them half the number of students and give them all the technology in the world,” said Mr. Vanderhoek, 31, a Yale graduate and former middle school teacher who built a test preparation company that pays its tutors far more than the competition.
And it carries with it other important benefits. Among them, it reduces the incentives for teachers unions. The fact is, when teachers have a more competitive wage, they can no longer expect the sort of insane job security they currently have. Incompetent teachers could and would be more easily fired. We could take back education.
I'll be the first to denounce public education. But, if we're going to invest in it, we may as well do a proper job. And part of that means placing the money in the right areas. Skilled teachers are worth alot more than football programs or on-site libraries (especially since the public is forced to pay for freestanding ones as well).
I also think that a degree of curriculum standardization makes sense. If they aren't being challenged enough, students can still take online AP courses, or dual enroll at the local community college. So the lack of rigor is a non-issue. And frankly, having a buffet of electives doesn't enhance anything. I happen to disagree with their inclusion of music into their core curriculum, but there is good reason for it. It is certainly something more critical than gym.
All and all, I think this is a very good idea, and I look forward to seeing what happens here.