NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 1, 2009

Teaching is one of the most important professions in the country.  So why is it hard to attract the top college graduates to the classroom?  The answer is simple: schools treat teachers like factory workers rather than professionals.

Teaching, as currently practiced, is an unattractive career to many people because it does not reward merit.  But a recent study by the Goldwater Institute shows how the system can be improved.  Researchers propose a system of merit bonuses for teachers based on student gains in the classroom and for meeting school-wide goals set by administrators.

Under the system:

  • Top teachers can be identified using value-added assessments, a method of evaluating teacher effectiveness by measuring what their students learn throughout the year.
  • Once highly-performing teachers are identified, just compensation can begin.
  • Researchers also outline a way to further compensate the best of the best, called "master teachers."
  • Once identified, master teachers would be given more students to teach; that means bigger classroom sizes.
  • Since research demonstrates that teacher quality trumps the impact of class size, a master teacher could effectively take on more students and still have better results than other teachers.

Moreover, researchers propose giving master teachers a bonus for each additional student they add to their classroom:

  • The bonus would amount to two-thirds of the per-pupil funding that the school receives.
  • For example, a master teacher in Arizona who taught 32 students instead of 20 could make $102,000.

With the potential to make a six-figure salary, competition for teaching positions would increase greatly, say researchers.

Source: Matthew Ladner et al., "New Millennium Schools: Delivering Six-Figure Teacher Salaries in Return for Outstanding Student Learning Gains," Goldwater Institute, April 2009.


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