Starting Teacher Salary: $125,000 – No April Fools’ Day!

A New York City charter school, set to open in 2009, is going to finally put to the test the whole issue of teacher pay. The school, for 5th — 8th grade students, is going to pay teachers $125,000 PLUS a bonus based on schoolwide performance. The school’s creator, Zeke Vanderhoek, says that a growing body of evidence suggests that teacher quality is the number one factor in student success.

I am not sure you need studies to show that, but, nonetheless, this experiment should be able to demonstrate, once and for all, if it is true (which I strongly suspect) or if it is false.

Before teachers start submitting their resumes, though, a few things will be different from union-based teaching. First, the school day will be longer. Second, the school year will be longer. Third, the teachers will assume responsibilities that normally go to support staff, like attendance and discipline. The class size will be 30 students. Oh, and one other thing, if you are not in the 90th percentile or higher on the GRE or GMAT then don’t bother applying — your application will not be accepted. Applicants must also go through three teaching auditions, numerous interviews, and must submit clear and concrete evidence of their students’ past success in the classroom.

I applaud Vanderhoek for creating this charter school and putting his money where his mouth is. I also predict success for the students. I have long believed that teacher quality is the number one factor in student success. Parental support is the number two factor.

Let’s all wish them well and stay tuned for the results.

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Posted by at 06:13 | Posted in Measure 37 | 43 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Rupert in Springfield

    What a great idea. I think the things here that are notable though are not the teacher pay but the requirements to be a teacher. It would seem that initial hiring is to be based upon accomplishment rather than union membership. Incentive pay for the teacher based upon student achievement, rather than seniority or getting some silly ESL certification is also a breakthrough.

    Hey, wait a second, its starting to look like these teachers are being hired and paid using criteria that exists in the private industry and not the dull cogged public sector machine. What an astonishing revelation to apply it to schools. The true test will not be will it work, it will. Rather, this latest re-invention of the wheel will be a success if it can spin for any duration at all without the public sector unions, or the jealous hand of government throwing sand in the bearings.

  • rinowatch

    In no way to promote RW, but there is an interesting video about the OEA that may fit in with this post. Just a thought….

  • devietro

    This sounds good. Charter schools do better than average anyway so these kids should do GREAT.

  • Alan

    Pay based on performance? Who needs performance when you have good intentions.

  • dean

    First, how are the students selected?

    Second, if the experiment “works,” does that mean you conservatives will be advocating a doubling or tripling of teacher pay scales in exchange for dumping the union?

    • eagle eye

      A good laugh! Yes, of course, these guys are going to argue for $125K teacher pay in Oregon and are going to pony up the dough to pay for it. Right? Right??

    • Joey Link

      I’ve said for years that I’d support public teacher salaries of $100k+ with benefits, if the unions weren’t in the picture and the pay was tied to performance. It would be MUCH better for both the teachers and the students, and I bet we’d probably end up paying less and getting more for our money.

      If teaching positions had a realistic opportunity to pay $100k+, I think many more of our ‘bright minds’ would forgo medical school and other high paying positions and it would really change the face of education.

  • Clueless Emma

    Actually, I believe charter schools drop off the radar faster than lies from a liberal. Most fail miserably. The popular suggestion that we run schools like businesses is simply ignorant. We are not turning out blouses and jeans. We daily deal with children–human beings, our future decision-makers. Just because an idea may seem new and innovative, does not mean it is good.

    How will employers differentiate success in the classroom? Would a teacher who helps a majority of her lower skilled freshman students take an interest in Shakespeare be compared to a high level International Baccalaureate teacher who works daily with the best students?

    Studies reveal teachers are not most concerned about pay. In my opinion, if the school day and year is lengthened, and more duties and expectations piled on without support, higher salary will not compensate.

    Interesting experiment–it isn’t going to work.

    • Jerry

      The students are going to be selected through a lottery with weighting toward UNDERPERFORMING students and those who live near the school. They have had overwhelming interest. If you wish to learn more and might consider keeping an open mind there is more information about the school at

      • dean

        Jerry…I have an open mind on this experiment. I’ll repeat the question. If it succeeds would you support a $125,000 a year teacher salary in Oregon in exchange for getting rid of the teacher’s union?

        If not…then what is the point of the experiment?

        • cc

          Golly, you seem to have a disappointing attitude.

          When you say “…you conservatives…” as some sort of pejorative to stir up things up – that doesn’t benefit kids. It’s a distraction – a red herring. So is injecting “the union” into the discussion, is that another attempt to score debating points? It certainly wasn’t mentioned in the post. These sorts of tactics show an insulting disregard for those who work at improving education in this country.

          It’s for the kids, dean – it’s not about you.

          The “point” of the experiment, as you well know, is to test the notion that there might be a better way to structure the educational system. Of course, that threatens the status quo and might worry people who have become comfortable with it – too comfortable, some would say.

          No one is asking for your tax dollars here, dean – why do you have such a negative attitude toward efforts to find alternatives to a failing system? Why don’t you keep your eyes on the prize and stop reflexively trying to find fault with everything non-governmental?

          • dean

            cc…I didn’t inject unions into the discussion. Please re-read the original post. ” a few things will be different from union-based teaching.”

            The point of the experiment is not simply to say there is “a better way.” It is to say that the specific better way being tested is to hire better teachers and pay them far more thannormal in exchange for more responsibility for outcomes and no union rules. There may be multiple other “better ways” that could be tested as independent variables, as “Happy” points out below, but they are not being tested here.

            Jerry…I don’t know what most teachers would say, but I expect a whole lot of them would accept more work and responsibility for a doubling of pay,even though as Happy points out, money is not everything in this debate.

          • Maude

            The village [email protected] said:
            “It is to say that the specific better way being tested is to hire better teachers and pay them far more thannormal in exchange for more responsibility for outcomes and no union rules.”

            Pay them far more than normal?

            Let’s compare apples to apples.

            The current OEA long timer teacher makes around $60-65K. Add in all the extra benefits (PERS, medical, vacation, etc), and you get an extra 30% (+ $20K), so you are now $80-85K. Then divide by the short (shortest?) work year in the nation (to get the high per hour wage they currently get), and then multiply that hourly wage by 2000 hour per year (what the rest of us work per year), and you are pushing a hundred grand (if the teachers actually worked a regular work year, which they don’t).

            My point is: OEA teachers are already paid very well, and so $125K is not “pay(ing) them far more than normal”, unless you think that 25% more is “Far more than normal”.

            Certainly not the 2x that other commenters (not dean) have posted.

            Again, use an apples to apples comparison, and you will find that most OEA teachers are in the very high 5-figures, and the highest paid teachers are already making 6 figures per year. Today. In Oregon.

            And some of these are just the (rotten?) apples who have stuck around marking time for decades, not out performing other teachers, but under-performing the other teachers, and laughing as they become the teachers who are the “pass the trash” teachers that the Unions protect, at the expense of ‘the kids’.

          • eagle eye

            Maude, I just have to laugh. I come in contact with many, many students who are getting bachelor’s degrees in science. And usually when I inquire whether they are thinking about a career teaching in the schools — high school — the response is that with the pay, the hours, the working conditions, there is no way they would want to do that. And these are not ignoramuses who don’t know how great a deal being a school teacher is supposed to be, they are very much aware of conditions and opportunities in the schools compared to the outside world.

          • dean

            Maude…your math seems to assume that the extra pay being offered in the test case does not include any benefits, such as health insurance or a matched 401K. I was not presuming that.

            But if your assumption is corect then the experiment can’t succeed because the pay differential would not be high enough to attract the best and brightest teachers after all.

            Signed….the village idiot.

          • cc

            “cc…I didn’t inject unions into the discussion. Please re-read the original post. ” a few things will be different from union-based teaching.””

            Please re-read your own comment, dean.

            “…you conservatives…” “…dumping the union…”

            Please don’t be so disingenuous as to act as if you weren’t just trying to redirect the discussion. Your comment was clearly and unmistakably inflammatory.

            Why do you find it necessary to attempt to tear down anything that doesn’t fit your world-view? Why do those who might benefit from this “experiment” count for nothing to you. One would think that your (and any teacher union’s) first concern would be the children.

          • dean

            Inflamatory? Calling names may be inflamatory…pointing out a contradiction in thinking is not.

            For months on this site I have read post after post from self proclaimed conservatives, including from Jerry, that if we could only get rid of the teacher’s union everything in Oregon education would be hunky dory. There have also been many posts taht claim teachers in Oregon are overpaid.

            The original post here appears to provide a way to get rid of the union and its rules by ratcheting up the pay and increasing the responsibility. If you think I misdirected the conversation, that is your issue, not mine.

            I don’t know what I “tore down” that does not fit my world view. My world view includes being open to the possibility that doubling teacher pay and dropping or curtailing the union could result in better education in some schools. My world view also doubts this would be replicable across the breadth of education, but I could be wrong about that.

          • cc

            “The original post here appears to provide a way to get rid of the union and its rules by ratcheting up the pay and increasing the responsibility.”

            “The original post here appears to provide a way to get rid of the union…” TO YOU, don’t you mean? While it may come as a surprise, not everyone shares your assessment !

            Y’know, dean, if you’re looking for trouble, you’ll probably find it – or manufacture it. Your take on this is colored by your prejudices. Why not admit it?

            Your assumption, plainly implicit in the quote above, is that getting rid of the union is the goal here. That demonstrates vividly where your primary allegiance lies. That would not be with the education of our children, would it? That might be a close second, but…

            What anyone else said here or what motives you may impute to others has no bearing whatsoever on *your* comments. Don’t run and hide, don’t be Clintonesque, just think about the corrosive nature of your own words.

            The spotlight’s on you, dean.

            Hold still.

          • dean

            I can’t seem to break through your fog on this so will stop trying.

            Buh bye now.

        • Jerry

          Of course I would. Remember, though, that the teachers would do their own discipline, attendance, counseling, etc. AND they would work longer days and more days.

          You need to visit the site and learn more about it in order to help you keep the open mind you promised.

  • RinoWatch

    I noted the other day an Oregonian reporter (western Washington Co.) with a City View Charter School bumper sticker on her van.

    Perhaps she consulted with the Merkleys or visa-versa re: the benefits of a Charter School education.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Clueless,, Yes you are.

    • Clueless Emma

      Wow, great reply!

  • HappyPacy

    I worry a lot when I hear good conservative thinkers picking up on the liberal lines of what is required for success. If it only took money our public schools should be gold star, considering the education budget in this state.

    Unless all schools, including charter schools, look at what is being taught and how it is taught we won’t see any great change. Take it from someone who taught in a private Christian school with minimum wage and no benefits seeing fellow teacher achieving amazing results, it is about teaching phonics instead of sight reading. Math facts rather than calculators, Spelling rather than guess and go writing. It is about direct instruction rather than “facilitating”, blending or cooperative learning. It’s about assigning homework, actually grading the papers, then reteach areas of weakness and continue the learning loop. I know it sounds boring, but it’s about learning, not playing.

    If these 6 figure teachers came out of higher education centers that simply taught them nonsense, they will teach nonsense. Nothing has changed in thirty years except for more nonsense curriculums and teaching methods–and where do they come from but the universities where these gold plated teachers are taught.

    The basics still work the best–evidenced by a billion dollar, 10 year study called Project Follow Through which compared the results of multiple teaching methods and “Direct Instruction” won not only in math, reading, spelling, and language, but also in self-esteem.

    Why haven’t we been embarking on the success shown in that study. Simple. There are no “toots and whistles” and it’s much more work than drawing pictures, buildling classrooms that look like art centers and talking about what feels good.

    The school will be a success if it goes to private schools to draw teachers who have turned their backs on the educrats in the universities and embraced the basics and direct instruction. Also, they’ll have teachers who spend their days thinking about lesson plans instead of more benefits for themselves. Teachers who have not been convinced that their self-interest is more important than time spent with students. Teachers who love rather than lobby.

  • Anonymous

    OK Clueless,

    Your ignorance on charter schools has you believing wrong things. Most do not “fail miserably” and the ones who do are a testimony to a far superior apporach where a failing school can actually be closed. Versus all government schools whihc never close regardless of their performance.
    There are many successful public charter schools in Oregon with more opening all the time. Despite the OEA assault on every effort.

    Your suspicions on how “employers will differentiate success in the classroom” are entirely the kind of contrived canards the OEA comes up with. There is no mystery to evaluating teachers. Employers have been evaluating teachers forever. The OEA and other teacher’s unions would have people believe there is no “fair” way to evaluate and base pay on merit. That’s ridiculous.
    Every private school and public charter school in the country has been evaluating teachers.
    Your example of a foolish comparison is a strawman play attempting to establish a phony difficulty in assessing teachers.

    You said,,,,,”Interesting experiment–it isn’t going to work”.

    At least the person starting the school will be able to determine that and make adjustments.

    Unlike our OEA corrupted government schools where they run experiments and distort and cover up the results.

    As was the 15 year CIMCAM fraud.

    • Clueless Emma

      I address the topic of merit pay here:

      As to the success of charter schools–there isn’t any substantial study to conclude average success or failure, though it is clear that schools unsupported by districts struggle to maintain buildings, employees, programs. I have heard many anecdotal nuggets of evidence as to the failure of schools that were given temporary grants and folded once the grants concluded. Many do not employ qualified teachers and student learning benchmarks are unclear.

      I fully support voucher systems and parent choice. This is not the issue here. The issue is paying higher salaries but restricting benefits. The issue is encouraging competition among teachers–who decides the best way to measure success? Standardized test? Written essay? Verbal interrogation?

      I find your arguments merely empty rhetoric you’ve picked up somewhere.

      I live mine. I retain my opinion that this school will not be successful, based merely on tempting teachers with higher pay and more responsibility.

      By the way, those of you arguing teachers make enough money–any other job requiring a Master’s degree pays double what I make. For the time and effort teachers give to the profession (most work upaid hours every day, take classes and update certification in summer), we are poorly paid, compared to other professions–and I’ve got $50,000 in student loans to pay back for the honor of working with unappreciative people’s unappreciative kids all day.

      • Jerry

        If you are so poorly paid, as you say you are, why don’t you get one of the jobs that pays twice what you make? Should be easy. And if the pay is so rotten, the work so hard, why is there never a teacher shortage? I wonder….

        • Sally

          They never have a come back, do they Jerry?

          To answer that question is to admit that they are not qualified to apply, much less land, a job paying double their $55-60K ($75-80K with benefits) salary. If a teacher were to land a “double their salary job”, how many would actually keep that job? Job security is pretty high in public school, yes? How about in the private sector, for those making $120K? Nobody ever gets laid off in the private sector, right? Or fired, right?

          Teachers whine about low pay and long hours, and claim they could make more in the private sector. They might be correct; some MIGHT make more, if: If they took the risk. If they worked their butt off. If they worked harder than the Joe in the next cubicle. If they didn’t get laid off. If they didn’t get fired.

          There is a reason that some jobs pay twice what teachers make. It is the same reason other jobs pay ten times what teachers make. Still confused? Go back to your old text books. See: supply and demand. Or pay for performance. Or free enterprise. But forget about Marx. Flush Lenin. And give up on communism.


          Thank you for making my point for me, Jerry. I teach for the intangible benefits, not for the money.

          You can tempt teachers with money, load more on their shoulders than they already carry, but ultimately they will leave. Some will take it on, but overloading them will begin to counteract the intangible benefits until the price they pay is not worth it.

          I teach because I choose to interact with kids, to grasp that elusive AHA moment, because I am passionate in my field and the hours are great for raising children.

          In my school district pay is good. I am not complaining.

          I am addressing the uninformed who claim teachers are overpaid, in general. If one takes into account all the education, extra hours, work brought home, extra duties, pressure from students, parents, administration, district, press, and compare these to that of anyone else with the same required schooling, the salary discrepancies are blatantly clear.

          Also, fyi– there is a shortage of good teachers in much of the country.

          I am anti-union and conservative to the core. I also honor those who serve others, be it military, police, firefighters…or teachers. Salaries should be equitable, but more importantly, those who work to better our world deserve respect and support.

          • Jerry

            Here is the deal, then. If, as you say, you teach for the intangible benefits (which you did say) then you can not and should not ever complain about your salary.

            It makes no sense to say what you said and then complain that you should be paid more. You admit you are not working as a teacher to get paid more, but for the aha moments.

            Sadly, and I know this as I was a teacher for 19 years, for many, many teachers the aha moments are June, July and August as well as Christmas vacation, spring vacation, in-service days, every other holiday that ever existed, work days, conference days, early dimsissal, late arrival, etc. In short, teachers and the union they belong to fight every single day to work with students less and less.

            This precludes the aha moments, as you interact less and less with your clients.

            It simply makes no sense whatsoever.

            The third most important factor in teaching is contact hours and Oregon and most other states are woefully short in these. Trust me on that.

            If teachers truly cared about the students and truly lived for the aha moments they would be forcefully demanding more contact time with the students. Sadly, however, they are demanding and getting less and less time with the students.

            Nothing worth doing was ever improved by doing less of it.

        • eagle eye

          Jerry, you don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to teacher pay. Read what I said about science students not wanting to go into K-12 teaching. Admittedly that’s just one subject. But scienctists are not especially well paid in the professions. The good students in all fields simply aren’t interested in K-12 teaching, on the whole. There are a lot of reasons but one is the limited economic opportunities. The “intangibles” could make up the difference but to most people, they are not all that they’re cracked up to be.

          • Jerry

            Not sure what I said that differs from what you said. Seems a bit harsh for you to say I don’t know what I am talking about. I believe I do. I read what you said about the science people. The whole point is this – who cares if good students in all fields, as you state, are not interested in teaching? That is fine. This is how a free market economy works.

            What limited ecomomic opportunities are you talking about, anyway, if these good students that you know could make $125,000 plus bonus pay to START? Sounds like an OK economic opportunity to me.

            I fully realize the intangibles are not what they are cracked up to be. But the tangibles sure are – like all the time off as I noted above.

          • eagle eye

            This is the least sensible thing you have ever posted, I believe. Where to begin? You say:

            “Not sure what I said that differs from what you said.”

            And then

            “The whole point is this – who cares if good students in all fields, as you state, are not interested in teaching? That is fine. This is how a free market economy works.”

            If you think that is what I am saying, you need reading glasses. (Charitable explanation). And if you really believe it doesn’t matter if good students go into teaching, you need more than reading glasses.

            “What limited ecomomic opportunities are you talking about, anyway, if these good students that you know could make $125,000 plus bonus pay to START? Sounds like an OK economic opportunity to me.”

            Oh yeah, tell me where in Oregon beginning teachers can get a deal like that.

            “I fully realize the intangibles are not what they are cracked up to be. But the tangibles sure are – like all the time off as I noted above.”

            Go back to square one of what I said. The time off is not that great, is what I hear from beginning graduates in the sciences. In the real world, not in some make-believe.

          • Jerry

            I guess we will have to force the good students to go into education, then, as they are not doing on their own according to you.
            How do you propose we do that?
            And who said anything about Oregon? We are 49th in the nation in education according to the Ed Week annual report – I guess the good news is we can only go up from here.

          • eagle eye

            Since you can’t force the good students to do anything — it’s a free country, you know — obviously we should try to improve the incentives for them to go into teaching, if that’s what we want, and I think any sane person would.

            As for Oregon being 49th in education — we’ve been through that before ad nauseam — but the short response is, that is nonsense, it’s just garbage.

          • Jerry

            Which is precisely the whole point of the article – this school is offering solid incentives in the form of the starting pay of 125K PLUS bonuses.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    I for one would totally support teacher pay in Oregon at the $125,000 level, provided it was tied to the same performance criteria as this school seems to be doing, rather than union seniority. Anything to stop the never ending whining about low pay of this particularly irksome cabal.

    Lets see, the cost to educate a child in Oregon is currently around $10,000 a year. Ok, lets multiply that by 30 kids in a class, so now we have $300,000. Ok, at $125k per year, that teacher is costing taxpayers around $200k annually.

    Hey wait a second Wally, I think The Beaver is on to something. Lets see, $300k total revenue – $200k on the teacher leaves a whole $100k left over to maintain one classroom for a year. Sure seems like you could keep the floors moped, the building painted and the toilet paper changed for that. No money left over for silliness like “grief counselors”, “racial specialists” and “anti bullying” programs though. Gee, what a shame.

    Full steam ahead with this one, at current spending levels we could do this and not break a sweat.

  • Anonymous

    When is this going to be enough of an outrage to get the evil unions out of our schools.

    Public-sector unions protect the dismal status quo. Detroit high schools graduate just a third of their students, according to an estimate by Michigan State University. But when a philanthropist offered to spend $200 million to create 15 new charter high schools, teachers staged a walk-out. Mayor Kilpatrick spurned the offer. These failing schools throw kids with no skills into a struggling economy in an environment characterized by social breakdown.

  • dian

    It is past time to get back to basics. 30 to 40 kids in a classroom is not at all too big. ”

    The basics still work the best–evidenced by a billion dollar, 10 year study called Project Follow Through which compared the results of multiple teaching methods and “Direct Instruction” won not only in math, reading, spelling, and language, but also in self-esteem.”

    With that type of teaching the children will carry the ball. Good reading skills are essential. With the ability to read, the rest comes much easier. If a child can read the world is at his feet. If he can’t because education has played games with his mine, he is a loser, not because he isn’t capable but because he can’t read.

    I learned to read using phonics. I can read anything you put in front of me as long as it is in english. I read at 400 words a minute because my fourth grade teacher took the time to teach us to read a paragraph at a time instead of suffering through each word. Reading is a joy. And I can figure out anything I need to with that.

    It’s time to give our kids a break.

    • Anonymous

      A statement that would only be made by someone who’s never been in charge of a classroom.

      • Anonymous

        A reply that would only be made by someone who should not be in charge of a classroom.

      • dian

        No I haven’t but I do know human nature and I know kids. They will give exactly what is expected of them for the most part. If nothing is expected, nothing will be given. If you expect them to be terrors, they will be.

  • dian

    It looks like I don’t type very well though.

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