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Beauty of Charter Schools

One of the reasons why I like Bloomberg’s education reforms in New York is that it allows for a much greater degree of experimentation, which is good, because I think most would agree that we haven’t figured out how to run a school most effectively and efficiently.

A recent New York Times Article, At Charter School, Higher Teacher Pay, detailed plans for a NYC charter school in Washington Heights, which hopes to attract high-quality teachers with a salary of $125,000 and bonus contingent on school performance — that would double the average NYC public school salary.

The question is “Whether significantly higher pay for teachers is the key to improving schools.”

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.

The school will open with seven teachers and 120 students, most of them from low-income Hispanic families. At full capacity, it will have 28 teachers and 480 students. It will have no assistant principals, and only one or two social workers. Its classes will have 30 students. In an inversion of the traditional school hierarchy that is raising eyebrows among school administrators, the principal will start off earning just $90,000. In place of a menu of electives to round out the core curriculum, all students will take music and Latin. Period.

It’s a great idea that indeed may have some practical issues. Perhaps they might want to pay everyone $110,000 and hire more social workers/staff to manage the kids? Still, the argument for paying the high dollar for the most excellent (rather than most senior) teacher needs to be demonstrated in the real world, and thankfully, charter schools serve as our nation’s laboratories.

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Filed under: Education

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