The $100,000+ teacher

Pay six-figure salaries to top teachers, argues a Goldwater Institute report by Matthew Ladner. It’s easily affordable by increasing class size, which would give more students access to the best teachers.

. . . Students learning from three highly effective instructors in three successive grades learn 50 percent more than students who have three consecutive ineffective instructors. These results are consistent across subjects and occur after controlling for student factors. Teacher quality is 10 to 20 times more important than variation in average class sizes, within the observable range.

They propose using value-added assessment to identify “master teachers.”  These high-fliers would be asked to teach more students in exchange for two-thirds of the revenue for the added students. Class sizes in the low 30s could generation six-figure incomes for top teachers, even in Arizona, which has relatively low teacher pay.

It’s already happening, in a quiet way, writes Stephen Sawchuck on EdWeek. Principals ask their best teachers if they’ll accept more students in exchange for more pay. The school saves by not having to hire a new teacher.

In some places, average (or very bad) teachers earn more than $100,000.  Take Francisco Garabitos, the computer teacher who threatened to blow up his Bronx school after he was suspended for allegedly attacking a student. From the New York Times:

A spokesman for the school system said Mr. Garabitos’s service has included more than a dozen allegations of misconduct, mostly for corporal punishment of students. Two of the allegations have been substantiated and two remain under investigation, including Thursday’s incident.

Twice in the last three years, Mr. Garabitos spent time in a reassignment center for teachers and other school officials removed from the schools. He also received two unsatisfactory ratings from the principal of his school. Because of his long experience and advanced degrees, Mr. Garabitos earned $100,049 a year.

He’s still on the payroll, complains the New York Daily News.

About Joanne


  1. Why are we always talking about the worst examples of bad teachers? There are bad employees in every profession. If Mr. Garabitos is in fact that bad it isn’t a knock on teachers that he is still on the payroll, it is a knock on the administration/school district that they have not followed the process to get rid of him. Shame on them.

    I’ve heard of this concept of giving good teachers more students and paying them more money. It sounds great on paper. If they are a great teacher with 30 students an hour, lets send 150 kids an hour into a lecture hall with this great teacher!! We can eliminate 4 other teachers and give the “great one” a lot more money! Many college students are not successful in the large lecture hall setting. Are we going to try to move that setting to our high schools? How about to our middle schools? Are our public school buildings even set up to teach classes this way (not taking into account that many of our students will not be successful with these methods).

    Even the seemingly negligible increase from 30 students to say 34 can have a negative impact on student learning. Why is it that many private schools keep their classes closer to TEN students per teacher?

    No, I don’t think making high school or middle school more like college is the answer. While I like the idea of making $100,000 or $150,000 per year, I don’t think it would be in the best interests of very many of my students.

  2. Sign me up.

    I used to joke to my colleagues that I’ll cover the whole district k-12 in a massive one-room schoolhouse for $15 million.

    I was only half-kidding.

  3. My contract already allows the district to give me an average of 33 kids per period, with a maximum of 36 in any class. Not that I’d object to the extra money, but….

  4. Only works if disruptive students can be removed from the class.

  5. palisadesk says:

    I have a better — or at least different — idea.

    Several research studies ( sorry, can’t document them off the top of my head — someone else may remember) have shown that money is a marginal motivator for many teachers. It’s not UNimportant, but it is not at the top of the list for most. There were some group differences: male teachers and secondary teachers were more likely to identify money as one of the top motivators, while females and elementary teachers consistently flagged working conditions, work environment and geographic location ahead of money.

    A raise in salary of 10-20 (even 30) grand wouldn’t motivate me — much of it would just be taxed back (and I would end up in a different tax bracket). On the other hand, access to a generous allowance for professional purposes: classroom supplies, books, art materials, money for visiting artists or special guest speakers, etc. would get my attention really fast. I spend a couple of grand a year on materials for the students NOW (and it’s after-tax income, too), but if I could get my hands on 10 grand a year to spend on the students and their learning I would hustle for the opportunity.

    Build in all the accountability requirements needed — a lot of teachers would jump at the chance. We’re tired of having to buy all our own stuff if the students are to have any decent books or materials to work with.

    I realize upper-income schools do not have this problem, but it is endemic in low-SES urban schools. At one school where I taught, the classrooms were completely bare — not even a pencil sharpener or a textbook to be found. No library, no art room, no music, no computers, no nothing. I thought it was an anomaly and was stunned to learn that it wasn’t.

    When you end up bankrolling basic supplies for the students, the last thing you need is MORE students to buy for. I am motivated by results, and to get results, I need the tools. A “tool allowance” would motivate me all right.

  6. As much as the teachers of all the other subjects may hate it, and refuse to admit that it will eventually happen, the day will come when Math and Science teachers are paid substantially more than that of most other subjects.

    It may take another “Sputnik” like event to force the education system to make that change, but that day is coming.

  7. Matthew Ladner says:

    Thanks for posting Joanne. I want to respond to some of the comments.

    What the value added research tells us is that teacher quality is 10 to 20 times more important than variation in class size within the observable range (low teens to mid thirties). This does not mean that you could move to 150 students.

    I am aware of the research showing that the research showing that the current group of teachers are not highly motivated by money. It is also the case however that, on average, we are recruiting teachers from the bottom third of college students based on the admission scores. I’d bet if we ran the same survey on South Korean teachers, we’d find they want their 2.5 times gdp per person salaries, or they will go find someone who will pay them even more to do something else.

    In other words, the idea behind higher salaries isn’t just to motivate performance- it is to rewards it, keep the rock stars in the classroom and out of administration, and to draw a much higher number of capable and ambitious people into the profession.

    I wrote a post at JPGB to spell out some of these issues:

  8. Almost all of my classes had mid- to upper-30s, and my salary was not even close to $100,000. Someone’s math is off, or at least someone’s assumptions.

  9. Education reform seems to to permanently attracted to the miracle cure of the moment, whatever that is – it’s been self-esteem, Latin, art & music, extracurriculars in general, same race/sex/ethnicity teachers, AP/IB classes etc. etc. ad nauseum. One of the current ones is the “rock star teacher” and that if we just exposed more children, all would be well. The problem is that there are NEVER going to be a high percentage of superstars in any field.

    I’d like to see serious efforts made to increase the quality of the greatest number of teachers, and I think the way to do that is to stress solid academic preparation of teachers (NOT done in ed schools, but in academic departments, with their admission requirements) and real, subject-specific and level-specific instruction in how to teach. I think that approach, combined with a strong curriculum could create many more effective teachers. I agree with the people who have said that creativity is overstressed; I’d like to see Direct Instruction and Core Knowledge much more widely used. I also think that homogeneous grouping by subject should be practiced and I think it would help the classroom management/discipline issues if everyone in the class could understand the material and were not bored.

    ALL chronically disruptive students need to be removed, whatever the reason for the disruption. Most teachers, like most other humans, are neither saints or martyrs and a safe, orderly environment is highly desired by most and it gives actual teaching and learning a fighting chance.

    All of the above is/will continue to be fought, tooth and nail, by the education establishment.

  10. Matthew Ladner says:


    That’s precisely the point of the study. If you are in a typical state putting out $10,000 per pupil and you have 34 students then your classroom is generating $340,000 in revenue.

    If people want to say out of that $340,000 we don’t have $100,000 for a verified great teacher I say: why not? The research shows that the quality of the instructor is going away the most important in school factor for learning gains.


    I largely agree with where you are coming from, but I don’t think what you are talking about is at all exclusive to what I am talking about. As the McKinsey Report shows, we are on average recruiting our teachers from the bottom third of university students based on their admission scores. The money is already in the system to stop doing this, and while I agree with you that there are other improvement strategies I’m willing to bet that all of them will work better with the right sort of teachers.