What happens when you pay a teacher $125,000?

A new charter school opening this September in New York City will pay each teacher $125,000 a year.

The Equity Project is banking on the argument that quality teachers are the key ingredient to improving student achievement. If you want the best, you have to pay them big bucks.

How do you determine if a teacher is great?

School officials conducted a nationwide search. Often teachers are hired based on their resumes and what previous employers have to say. The Equity Project visited classrooms to see teacher applicants in action.

The school is focusing its budget on paying these quality teachers.

Class sizes will be bigger – about 30 in each class. School leaders don’t plan to spend a lot of money on the latest technology or education fads. The school won’t have assistant principals, substitute teachers or academic coaches.

Teachers must do all duties and they’re expected to work longer hours and more days than traditional public school teachers.

Is teacher quality the key to a school’s success? Would you be willing to give up smaller classes, more staff and updated technology for high-quality teachers?

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Classroom Teacher

June 12th, 2009
1:12 pm

You will soon have budget problems.

jim d

June 12th, 2009
1:49 pm

What happens? Nothing different.

N.Ga. Teacher

June 12th, 2009
2:56 pm

This “experiment” will work because it has already been biased for success. First, it is a charter school, and motivated parents will want to enroll their kids. The fact that there are no assistant principals tells me right away that behavior problem kids are at a mimimum. Second, the principal has personally hired the teachers and so will be supporting them, not intimidating them like so many “new sheriff in town” principals. Third, hand-picked superstar teachers, when left to their own devices, do a great job. What I would like to see is if this same concept works if this “select” faculty is switched with another public school faculty. And I want to see if it works at the high school level. I guarantee, though, that ANY faculty that has backing of a principal, good pay, and academic freedom will perform well.


June 12th, 2009
3:25 pm

Well, the students are selected by lottery with bias given to students in the local school district. Yes, there students will be biased because the ones with motivated parents will be in the lottery and those students are probably better in school. But apparently the school district is heavily lower income hispanic background so the students that are in the school will be worth looking at.

Switching the handpicked faculty with ‘another public school faculty’ won’t help to prove or disprove the current hypothesis. The test is whether or not highly skilled teachers can be used to produce extreme results. The argument being that if teacher salaries were made to be higher, people with high skill as teachers might leave other careers and go into teaching.

After you get back results from this group of teachers/students you can then try and determine if just paying more money to normal teachers would produce equal returns or if skilled teachers are actually able to produce substantially higher returns.

I agree, I expect they will see amazing success with this particular school over the next few years because of the combination of teachers and students. I see no reason why it wouldn’t work at a high school level. Maybe someone else will have the guts to try the experiment on a high school level.

Thanks for putting this topic up. I’ve been watching the news about this school since the first article was in the NYTimes a year ago. I’m glad it finally came up for some discussion.


June 12th, 2009
3:49 pm

A good teacher is well worth 125, the problem is paying someone that doesn’t make them a good teacher. Being a good or great teacher is as rare as being great or good at any challenging profession. The fact is Teachers are by far the most numerous of degreed professions. (I believe in the last census nurses were second with about half the number) So an overall strategy to improve schooling for all based on the hiring of good teachers has no chance of success. There simply are not that many good teachers.


June 12th, 2009
4:27 pm

“Is teacher quality the key to a school’s success?”

No. School board quality and top administration quality comprise the key to schools’ success.

A schools system can be no more successful or unsuccessful than it has been designed to be successful or unsuccessful. A schools system will perfectly produce exactly what it’s been designed to produce. If the schools system has been designed to produce CRCT cheating, CRCT cheating will be produced, as we’ve seen. If a schools system has been designed to produce lots of dropouts, then lots of dropouts will be produced.

Again, none of principals, teachers, students, and parents is the schools system designer. The school board and top administration have schools system design responsbility. And what they design can be no better or worse than their quality. Why is this so hard to accept? Can it be because our typical way of thinking drives us to seek the least empowered “Who” to blame?


June 12th, 2009
4:33 pm

I’d love to see their duties and the expectations for their “longer days and years” and see how it compares to how much public school teachers ACTUALLY work and what they ACTUALLY do, as compared to what the public THINKS they do.


June 12th, 2009
4:46 pm

You have some very happy teachers.


June 12th, 2009
5:49 pm

Apparently when you pay teachers $125,000 per year, you get to choose from a nationwide pool of talent until you find teachers who precisely meet your qualifications.

If for no other reason, I would expect this school to be very successful, at least initially, due to the Hawthorne Effect.

It’s possible that raising the pay of teachers nationwide would make teaching more competitive and draw more qualified people into the field.

It might also be possible that the quality of the student is at least as important as the quality of the teacher.

Just some thoughts.

highly qualified teacher

June 12th, 2009
6:17 pm

It’s amazing how many people are so negative about this “experiment.” Are they afraid that if this school works, then they will be expected to do more and get paid more?

Of course the quality of the teachers is the key – what kind of question is that? Unfortunately, there aren’t enough quality teachers out there to make them available to all students…

Classroom Teacher

June 12th, 2009
6:48 pm

Well see the key is “highly qualified teacher.” Per NCLB a highly qualified teacher is one with a degree, teachers certification, and teaching in their field. Not one word about student achievement. Do you consider this highly qualified?

highly qualified teacher

June 12th, 2009
7:24 pm

Nothing in the article says that this school is hiring just “highly qualified” as the NCLB defines it – and good for them. If you don’t like the word, “qualified,” you can substitute “effective.” In any event, teachers are the key.

Classroom Teacher

June 12th, 2009
7:58 pm

Well then once again how do you define highly qualified (or effective)? 80% pass rate of students on standardized testing? 90%? I teach at an alternative school so even though I am a “highly qualified” teacher by NCLB, truth be told if we are using test scores I’m in trouble.


June 12th, 2009
10:33 pm

Just two points: [1 There is only one measurement that is even close to valid. That measurement is IMPROVEMENT. Then, no matter the calibre of the students, if a reasonable percentage of their scores show improvement from one year to the next, or from pre test to post test, the teacher is obviously EFFECTIVE to some degree. Then, Mrs. G who teaches a classful of low achievers or English as a 2nd language students, can at least stand a chance when compared to Miss M whose class is heavy on high achievers
[2]As I said yesterday, the quality of students is at least as important as the quality of teachers AND the method of measurement [the test] should be testing improvement AS WELL AS achievement.

Old School

June 13th, 2009
10:25 am

Nothing I read in the article or found on the website says anything about student expectations.
No doubt the school will start off with high teacher morale which can be a very big plus towards student achievement. Overall, it will be interesting to follow the school as it charts its course.


June 13th, 2009
6:24 pm

Let’s see, over 600 students applied for 120 slots. The principal was able to cherry pick students. That alone will guarantee success. Heck, you could put, well, me, teaching and this school would do well.


June 13th, 2009
7:23 pm

Let’s remember – this is NYC where the cost of living makes Atlanta look like Wal-Mart. However – the basic premise is good. Pay teachers quite a bit more – maybe not $125k, but say, starting at $50k and going up to $95k for a veteran. Then, principals can kick up to $120k – but please REDUCE the number of AP’s. They are a huge expenditure with little student contact. Counselors not only also deserve better pay – but far, far better training.

The idea that increasing the payscale in order to increase competition is a good one. We are far beyond the day when we had so many exceptional teachers because it was one of a few careers available to women. Nowadays, women can study and become anything they wish – doctors, lawyers, engineers, businesswomen. This has severely impacted the number of women graduating college who choose the teaching profession. Make it a viable, important, highly compensated career choice – and watch the best and brightest reconsider teaching as a career choice, giving schools a large pool of candidates to choose from.

One more thing — drastically cut back on the power of the teachers unions. Quit protecting bad apples – they make the whole basket looked bruised.


June 13th, 2009
7:27 pm

Or — for an even more radical idea –

States do have the option of saying “thanks, but no thanks” to the federal government and their NCLB legislation. Some studies have shown that the cost of implementing all of the testing and regulations of NCLB may actually almost eat up the accompanying revenue. So – what if Georgia just said, NO. We’ll handle it ourselves within the constraints of our own budgets, thank you very much.


Real radical idea

June 13th, 2009
8:18 pm

Want to cut down the power of the teachers unions Cere? Simple. When teachers can teach without having to worry about being routinely defied, verbally abused, and even physically assaulted by students, all without consequence to the students, then by all means, let’s talk about the teacher unions.

When teachers can openly address all of the above, without the routine abuse of evaluation instrument to retaliate against teachers, with little or no protections to address such retaliation, then by all means, let’s talk about the teacher unions.

And yes, there is plenty to talk about when it comes to how their role does hamper educational progress. But when teachers are literally under assault, both verbally and physically, and then are retaliated against when they try to address it as individuals, how can you possibly blame them for joining together to protect their rights?


June 13th, 2009
8:21 pm

Cere – brilliant. Simply raise the state taxes to make up for difference. After all, surely the good Christians of GA wouldn’t have a problem with that.


June 13th, 2009
8:58 pm

There may not be a “difference” to make up, Ray. There was a years-long (2002-08) study conducted by a consortium of 11 states by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to determine the NEW costs associated with implementing the testing and other requirements of NCLB. Here’s one quote from an early conclusion –

“Connecticut is the first state involved in the CCSSO study to issue a report. “The cost estimates in this report are sobering,” writes Betty Sternberg, Connecticut Commissioner of Education. “Through FY08, there is a burden of approximately $41.6 million on the State of Connecticut to meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.” And, Sternberg points out, “these are state-level costs only; a report on local costs will be published in April 2005.” Two key areas are largely responsible for Connecticut’s shortfall: additional assessments and providing technical assistance and support for local education agency and schools in need of improvement.”

I’m saying – if we don’t participate in NCLB, which may be costing the state millions upon millions to implement, perhaps we could get back to the task of educating – rather than testing. There IS a test that has served schools well for many years – it’s called the ITBS. Isn’t it enough?


June 13th, 2009
8:59 pm

Real Radical – I feel bad for you – wherever you teach must be one hell hole.


June 13th, 2009
9:12 pm

There’s more —

In September 2005, the Virginia Department of Education released a cost study that found that local school divisions will have to spend $62 million, $60 million, $61 million and $65 million more than they are receiving from the federal government, through fiscal year 2008, to administer NCLB.

New Mexico conducted a cost study in May 2005 that found the state was going to have to spend $37 million, $31 million and $26 million more than it is receiving in new federal dollars for 2003-2005 school years, respectively.

The Connecticut State Department of Education reported that through FY 08, it will cost the state approximately $41.6 million to administer NCLB. These are state level costs only; a report on local costs for just three school districts found an additional unmet cost of $22.6 million. The study covers the costs of meeting the law’s requirements (i.e. compliance cost) but does not cover what the state will have to spend to actually get students to pass grade level tests and close the achievement gap (i.e. proficiency costs).

In July 2004, a study commissioned by the Hawaii legislature found it would cost $191 million between 2003-2008 to meet the requirements of NCLB. Developmental costs were estimated at an additional $24.6 million.

The Minnesota State Auditor found difficulties with NCLB regulations to be widespread, including the testing of students with disabilities and limited English proficient students. The February 2004 State Auditor report estimated the cost to the state for student testing alone to be $19 million annually.

The state of Ohio commissioned an NCLB cost study to investigate how much the law’s regulations would cost Ohio. In December 2003, they found that $1.4 billion annually would be placed on the backs of Ohio taxpayers to comply with all of NCLB’s rules and regulations through the 2013-2014 school year.

jim d

June 14th, 2009
7:09 am


“cherry picking students” is in direct conflict with law. (just felt that needed to be pointed out)

Happiest teacher

June 14th, 2009
10:45 am

FYI- This “experiment” has been going on for well over 10 years in the KIPP schools. KIPP pays 15% above the standard district scale in exchange for longer hours and higher expectations. KIPP rigorously interviews teachers and hires only the very best, with the belief that little else matters. The results? KIPP takes students on a first-come, first-serve basis in the poorest neighborhoods in the country and sends them to college at nearly an 80% clip.

Are there extenuating factors? Of course, but the KIPP formula is highly effective for one reason: the focus on teacher quality. So, the experiment is working, just without the catchy $125K headline.

Also- the third KIPP school is set to open in Atlanta this fall.

KIPP x factor

June 14th, 2009
12:50 pm

You forgot one thing KIPP does differently happiest teacher. Unlike most public schools, they enforce discipline. We would be shocked at how effective many teachers could be if they were supported in discipline. But then we’d have to look at how ineffectively we support our teachers, something we don’t seem to be willing to do.


June 14th, 2009
3:32 pm

Whatever the results, they won’t be near as bad as hiring a retard from TX to be president of the country.


June 14th, 2009
3:54 pm

Happiest teacher: do parents VOLUNTEER for their kids to go to KIPP (instead of a traditional school) and can KIPP remove those whose behavior interferes with the education of others? And does KIPP work with all students, including poor neighborhood sp ed kids?


June 15th, 2009
9:17 am

KIPP schools wouldn’t work without the contracts for student & parent behavior & associated parental support…and “regular” schools would work if they had those things…

reality check

June 15th, 2009
9:25 am

Everyone wants to point out how KIPP schools are different. The truth is that there are many schools where disciplines are not problems, where parents do volunteer (probably more than KIPP parents) YET their students aren’t doing as well.

Of course,teachers don’t like these experiments because what is implied is that all those teachers who are left at public schools are the ones who couldn’t quite make it to the list of good teachers to be hired by KIPP and other schools.

Classroom Teacher

June 15th, 2009
11:57 am

“Of course,teachers don’t like these experiments because what is implied is that all those teachers who are left at public schools are the ones who couldn’t’t quite make it to the list of good teachers to be hired by KIPP and other schools.”

Do you have any sources for your statement? As a classroom teacher I work at the pleasure of the local school board. Every year, to include this one, the county I teach in has to hire a bunch of new teachers. Why you may ask??? Because our county has a reputation of discipline problems in the schools. Why do we have discipline problems??? Talk to the administrators, I can only control what goes on in my class. I’ll tell you this though; when I write a student up for touching a girl inappropriately and then he cusses me out when I tell him to stop and he is back in my class after a two day ISS stint, don’t you dare say that I couldn’t make it at whatever school you think might be doing a better job.

David S

June 15th, 2009
12:43 pm

The money is still forcibly taken from the taxpayers in the community. In the end, that ALWAYS mean no accountability. High pay does not equal great results. Just look at what the president and members of congress make.

I had awsome teachers in private school and they made very little. They knew their stuff and they cared.

This is just more window dressing hoping to cover up the failings of an immorally-funded and functionally unworkable government run system of education.


June 15th, 2009
2:23 pm

It’s all the parents fault.

Happiest teacher

June 15th, 2009
2:29 pm

do parents VOLUNTEER for their kids to go to KIPP (instead of a traditional school) and can KIPP remove those whose behavior interferes with the education of others? And does KIPP work with all students, including poor neighborhood sp ed kids?

Yes, parents volunteer for their students to go to KIPP, but most often, the principal recruits students withing the neighborhood. KIPP removes students much less frequently than normal schools, instead there is a huge focus on tackling little problems before they become big and supporting the discipline decisions the teachers make. Finally, all KIPP schools are first-come, first-serve. Whichever students want to come, can come until the capacity of the school is reached.

Yes, our behavior expectation contracts are great (teachers sign one too, btw), but I firmly believe they would be empty pieces of paper in the hands of most educators.


June 15th, 2009
4:06 pm

I have seen the Kipp “contracts” for students, parents & teachers. They would be “empty paper in the hands” of most parents & students as well. By the way what is the average age & marital status of KIPP teachers? How many years of experience do they have?

What you will find is the typical KIPP teacher is young, single and typically with fewer years of experience. Most teachers with families & years under their belt do not wish to endure the required “on-call” & Saturday duties for KIPP schools. I know some people like to think of teaching as a “calling” or something that is more than it really is but the reality is…it’s a job. Most teachers do the best they can with what they have; but it’s not our life, it’s how we make a living. Anyone who wants a marytr if front of their kid’s class is ignorant. Teachers who wish to be marytrs end up a frazzled, soon to be heavily medicated burn-out.

Happiest teacher

June 15th, 2009
5:12 pm

Some good points echo…but this is what drives me nuts about the debate around education reform: the search for the silver bullet. Will the KIPP model work everywhere, for everyone? No. But it’s not needed everywhere or for everyone. KIPP has just proven to be ONE of the solutions, capitalizing on a PART of the work force out there. Just because a particular school has filled a niche does not mean it should be denigrated for not solving the WHOLE problem.


June 17th, 2009
7:58 am

About time someone paid teachers, errr, child raisers, what they are worth! Good for NYC! Hopefully this sets a precedent


June 24th, 2009
8:55 pm

It might work. Hopefully the presure to perform won’t stress or break the teacher’s ‘pre-hired’ spirit to reach kids that were in their smaller classes.


September 4th, 2009
7:28 pm

I agree with Echo. I am a parent in a high performing school district with heavy parent involvement. My daughter just finished 2nd grade. The teacher had a reputation as verbally abusive and controlling(but tenured). After spending time volunteering in the classroom, I would also add lazy and cruel. The kids (with the help of the mothers) kinda taught themselves. I guess if you hand out enough worksheets during the day, the kids will learn something. Interestingly, all the kids did very well on the STAR tests (in CA). I think the caliber of kids (in this affluent suburb) overcame her lazy teaching.