Occupying my time with our 4th snow day of the year has allowed me to make multipletweets, read several articles, play board games and ping pong with my family, lose in video games to my boys, catch up on others blogs, and finally reflect on what our educational system can become. Two blogs today have helped to confirm my idea on how schools can change to meet the needs of our students.
After reading Paul Wood's post about snow days and Aaron Eyler's post about class sizes of 50, I am convinced more than ever we can create a structure that allows all student exposure to the best teachers and greatly increase teacher pay, all while decreasing the amount of money and resources spent on education.
Educators know and research has proven, the greatest factor in increasing student learning is the quality of instruction the student receives. Unfortunately, all students do not receive quality instruction every day. If we could guarantee every student was exposed to high-quality instruction from the best teachers, we could greatly increase student learning.
We also know that teachers are not paid at the level they should be, especially our best teachers. The factory model we currently use supports mediocrity and encourages teachers to be paid for their experience or their level of degree, not for their ability to help kids learn.
Our current system is just not as efficient as it could be. We are investing millions of dollars in a model designed to prepare students for a world that no longer exists. The structure needs to be transformed and with effective leadership, we can create a learning network that is economically feasible and truly meets the needs of all learners.
I have been thinking about this for a while. My former boss Arnie Snook and I used to talk a lot about what schools could be as more and more technology became available. We discussed a system that could help assure all students received instruction from only the best teachers. In this system we would be able to pay these teachers a salary of $100,000 or more for their ability to help kids learn.
I believe it is possible and I believe it could help solve two of the biggest issues with our current system:
- Teacher Pay and
- Teacher Quality
Our state has long been considered to have one of the best if not the best educational system in the nation. In Iowa, as I am sure it is in most states, schools receive a dollar amount per pupil living in the district. The cost is funded by state aid and local property taxes. This money is used by schools for many things, but 80% is used for salaries. Even though most of our funding goes to cover personnel costs, it is in my opinion that most teachers still are not paid well.
What if instead of all of that money going to the district, and then being divvied out to teachers, the money was given to the parent to be spent not on another district, but on individual teachers. This would be similar to a voucher, but instead of all of the money being paid to another district, it would go to individual teachers.
For example as a parent, lets say I get $5000 of the $5800 dollar/pupil cost to pay for my child's education. I could choose which teachers my child would have and I could pay them at a rate deserving of their skills. So if I wanted my child to have the best Math teacher, I could pay the teacher $1000 for his/her services. If the teacher had 100 students, he/she would get paid $100,000. There would have to be some sort of regulations placed on what could and couldn't be charged, but hopefully you get the idea.
I am sure all teachers would like to make $100,000, but after reading Aaron Eyler's postabout class sizes of 50 and potentially handling 250 students in a blended learning environment, teachers could potentially earn $250,000. I think that is probably a good pay raise for most educators.
Not only would teachers get paid a nice salary, those teachers that were not as effective would be eliminated. If people didn't want to hire you to work with their kids, you would have to find something else to do. The teacher unions would be dissolved and we would have a more capitalistic system in which the best teachers made the most money.Capitalism at its finest.
Good teachers are paid good money, and all students would be guaranteed the best teachers. Sounds like a good idea to me. If you wonder how this is possible, study blended learning environments, 1:1 schools, and online classes. Less money is spent on busses, books, and buildings and more money could be invested on student learning. Every student is given a laptop, a netbook, or a smartphone. Why not? These devices are a cheap way to open up the world to every student.
It is possible and I think it is needed. There are plenty of excellent teachers available to serve in this kind of system, why don't we give them a chance to increase their circle of influence from one classroom to the rest of the world.
I would love to have the opportunity to choose my children's teachers not only from educators in my district, but from others in the state, nation, or world for that matter. My children's education would be truly personalized to meet their learning needs and we could design a learning program that met each child's needs. That is exciting to me not only as an educator, but as a parent.
I look forward to your questions and comments. Hopefully this will spur some discussion about the role of state departments of education, administration, buildings, sports, and more. I have thought about most of it, but am anxious to hear everyone's thoughts. Under the leadership of John Carver, Van Meter Schools is committed to creating a system that empowers students to find their passion and learn in a system that enables them to THINK, LEAD & SERVE.