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Teacher Pay Could Increase Without Upping Class Sizes: Public Impact Analysis

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TEACHER PAY
In this Tuesday, May 8, 2012 photo, kindergarten teacher Anne Ferlito talks to the class about animals prior to a zoo visit in Pepper Pike, Ohio. | AP

As part of its “Opportunity Culture” initiative to help close achievement gaps and meet rising global education standards, Public Impact used financial analyses to show that redesigning teacher roles to allow them to reach more students could feasibly free up enough money to pay those teachers up to 130 percent more.

The organization maintains that this spike in teacher pay can be accomplished within current budgets, and without increasing class sizes. Public Impact offers over 20 models for extending the reach of teachers, many of which entail redesigning jobs, utilizing technology or some combination thereof.

A financial breakdown of three models in particular shows that when teachers reach more students, additional per-pupil funds become available to support those teachers’ work. This additional funding, minus new costs, can in turn be used for increased pay and other priorities, depending on the needs of each school.

In a Multi-Classroom Leadership school model, teachers with leadership skills -- otherwise known as "teacher-leaders" -- are assigned a team of teachers with whom they are supposed to share their strategies and best practices for classroom success. These teacher-leaders determine how students spend their time, and tailor their team members’ roles according to their strengths, all while facilitating collaboration and planning. The leader is thus accountable for team success and all students’ learning.

According to Public Impact’s report, a school could use this model as a training mechanism for newer teachers, and reduce the pay of some less-qualified team teachers by limiting their roles and asking them to work 40-hour weeks, instead of the usual 50-hour weeks typical of most teachers.

Furthermore, the report maintains that by employing paraprofessionals instead of teachers to supervise non-instructional time and complete paperwork, a school could pay all team teachers more, while paying teacher-leaders a sizable additional supplement. According to Public Impact’s calculations, this strategy could increase teacher-leader pay between 67 and 134 percent.

Elsewhere, the Elementary Subject Specialization model requires that classroom subject specialists teach one to two core subjects in which they excel, for two to four classes of students. At the same time, schools limit their instructional and non-instructional duties by providing paraprofessional support staff to supervise students during non-instructional time and complete other administrative tasks. Public Impact analysis finds that schools could increase teacher pay up to 43 percent using this tactic.

In a Time-Technology Swap-Rotation model, students rotate on a fixed schedule between self-paced digital instruction and face-to-face learning with a teacher. This process enables teachers to educate a large number of students without increasing class size, since at a given time some students are learning in a digital lab while under the supervision of a paraprofessional. The model also allows time for teacher collaboration with peers, and could inspire a 41-percent pay increase.

Last August, a study showed that the U.S. ranked 22nd out of 27 countries when it came to the ratio of teachers with 15 years’ experience to the average earnings of full-time workers with a college degree. In the U.S., teachers earned less than 60 percent of the average pay for full-time college-educated workers, whereas in many other countries, teachers earn between 80 and 100 percent of the college-educated average.

In response to this issue, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has called for teacher salaries that start at $60,000 and eventually increase to $150,000 based on performance, which far exceeds current teacher pay in nearly all U.S. school districts.

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