TeachersPayTeachers Creates Learning Entrepreneurs

CascadeNewLogoBy Steve Buckstein

The debate over the sharing economy often revolves around the well-known players such as the room rental company Airbnb and the ridesharing company Uber. These firms have harnessed the liberating power of technology to unleash billions of dollars of so-called dead capital, while turning millions of people around the world into entrepreneurs, serving their fellow man and making a profit at the same time.

As the sharing revolution evolves and matures, it promises not only to improve the lives of countless individuals, but it may also help to revolutionize a critical part of our lives that for too long has been dominated by status quo lobbies such as teachers unions and the governments they influence—education.

Education is critical to human progress, but for too long it has largely been provided outside the market framework that makes everything better in our world.

Now, thanks to a small company called Teacher Synergy, Inc., and its online marketplace TeachersPayTeachers.com, educators are beginning to directly benefit from a free market in their intellectual property (IP). On the site they can buy and sell their own original lesson plans and related educational resources that up until now have benefitted their own students, but nobody else’s.

In the words of Jason Bedrick, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom:

“Words like ‘market’ and ‘competition’ or—worst of all—‘profit’ are considered dirty words in some circles, particularly in education. Perhaps that’s why some people prefer the more anodyne (if less accurate) term ‘sharing economy’ to describe how online platforms and apps are enabling people to monetize resources they own by connecting them directly with potential buyers.”

TeachersPayTeachers recognizes that not all teachers are the same. Some teachers are better than others at creating lesson plans that engage students and help them learn. So, for example, a teacher who is great at teaching math may not be so great at teaching geography. Why not let the good math teacher profit by selling his or her lesson plans to other teachers while she, perhaps, buys geography lesson plans from teachers who excel in that discipline?

Since its founding in 2006 by a New York City public school teacher, TeachersPayTeachers has allowed more than 10,000 teachers to earn $175 million from its 3.4 million active teacher members. Some teachers have earned over $100,000 selling lesson plans for just a few dollars apiece to thousands of their colleagues all over the nation, and even in other countries.

So, if teachers buying and selling lesson plans can benefit both teachers and students, who could be opposed? Well, just like existing taxicab monopolies opposed ride sharing firms like Uber for obvious reasons, those who currently control public school districts might feel threatened by teachers acting more like entrepreneurs and realizing the benefits of markets and capitalism.

Some districts claim that any intellectual property created by their teachers belongs to the district, even if created on the teachers’ own time. TeachersPayTeachers addresses this issue and concludes that teachers often do own their own IP in lesson plans. Even the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, has stated that “staff should own the copyright to the materials they create for use in the classroom.”

Jason Bedrick concludes that “[t]eachers tend to be less enthusiastic about market-based reforms to education, but perhaps some experience with the ‘sharing economy’ will show them how the best teachers stand to benefit greatly from Uber-ized education.”

While the best teachers will benefit greatly from Uber-ized education, other teachers can benefit also, and many students will benefit as their teachers have access to better teaching tools. Big picture, Uber-ized education can help create a diverse marketplace of educational options that will turn not only teachers, but students, into capitalist entrepreneurs. It can’t happen too soon.

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Economy, Education, Free Trade | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • ConservativeTeacher

    It’s a great site and many of the lessons that teachers put on there are actually free.

  • thevillageidiot

    Who needs teachers. Her is one who is not a teacher, has no teaching credentials yet Schools nation wide are tuning into his online classes,

    Who needs lesson plans? only those stuck in the state controlled mindset that only teachers with college education in teaching and licensed by the state are qualified to teach. This article says it better. also referring to Salman Kahn. 26 million online students for free education.

    if you want to home school one could take advantage of the lesson plans but why when there is already other education websites such as

    The villageidiot trying to spread the word. These are the truly uber-ized education.

    • ConservativeTeacher

      Lets see how that’s working out:

      #Kids %Grad #Dropouts
      Oregon Connections Academy 417 54% 153
      (Oregon’s largest online charter school)

      O.C High School (Public) 514 88% 50

      Parkrose (Public) 289 78% 34
      Sherwood (public) 314 93% 16
      Sunset HS (Public) 475 83% 49
      West linn HS (Public) 392 93% 14

      GRANT HS! for heavens sake has 374 kids 90% grad 30 dropouts-all of these are 1000% better than Oregon Connections

      • Comparing apples to apples is important. From an Oregon Connections Academy Parent Association letter:

        “…many of ORCA’s older students arrive credit
        deficient, discouraged and ready to give up (this category of student is the only one which local brick and mortar
        schools willingly refer to ORCA). Preliminary analysis shows that of the high school seniors in 2012 who had
        arrived at ORCA ‘on track’ with respect to academic credits, approximately 80 percent graduated on time.”

        source: https://www.orcapa.org/uploads/2/9/1/5/2915773/130304_betsyhammondemailreply.pdf

        • CT

          Steve, I will take your 80% number on faith. If you are Park Rose I guess 80% looks pretty darn good. The rest of my examples would think 80% means a somewhat failed system. I taught 5 years in my districts “alternative education program “, we served students who did not fit into a traditional brick and mortar mold, credit deficient students and students who were 18-21 who would be classified as dropouts. When given a chance, those dropouts wanted to come back and EARN their diplomas. My district didn’t ‘have to’ spend $$ on these kids but it was the right thing to do! Here are my numbers: ALL BUT ONE!!! We had 30-45 students every year, and for the 5 years I was part of the team that had only one student that we didn’t get through. Using a combination of direct instruction, online learning and a determination not to let kids give up on themselves, we graduated every kid but one! There is no way that a “online only” school could ever compete with our combination of strategies and success!

      • Sal

        1000 per cent?! I trust you are not a math teacher.

        • CT

          Too funny. You do understand it’s possible to have more than 100% don’t you? Here is a example: I make a product that costs $1 to produce. If I sell it for $2 I make a profit of 100%. If I sell it for $5 I have made what % of profit? Don’t worry I won’t ask you to figure it out but I think we can agree it’s greater than 100%. Is it possible to see a1000 percent increase in something? Sure it is! AND Yes I HAVE A DEGREE IN MATHEMATICS! Do you? Leave the ‘thinking’ to people with an actual education and stick to flipping burgers.

          • Of course it’s possible to see a 1,000 percent increase in something; just not in the graduation rate example you used.

            There is no way that all the schools you listed could have graduation rates that were 1,000 percent better than the 54% you noted for Connections Academy. That would mean that those schools were graduating more than five times the number of students they had. Not likely.

          • CT

            Too literal Steve, saying 1000 percent better is like a ton better or way better or 50 times better. Not an actual mathematical expression. My point is a professional using a variety of strategies will always out preform a online program

          • I understood that you weren’t making an actual mathematical statement, but saying that something is a ton better doesn’t mean it’s necessarily so.

            Your variety of strategies may have out performed an online program, but that doesn’t mean that any variety of strategies will do so. In some cases, poor strategies may very well do worse than an online program.

          • CT

            Steve, would you have your own children drop from public/private school to attend OCA? Would you recommend to friends and family to withdraw their children and put them in a school with no actual teachers? God I hope not.

          • CT, we’ve gotten quite off the actual topic of this post, but Connections Academy does have “actual teachers.” I’ve met some of them, and I’ve met students who did very well there, and parents who are so appreciative that they had that option. It’s certainly not right for everybody, but I would hope we are beyond the “one size fits all” school system mentality by now.

          • CT

            Agreed! Many options for parents is best. There are lots of good public, private, charter schools out there. Great online options and great resources for home school parents. Unfortunately my experience with OCA was not as positive as yours. As an educator who has worked in charter schools and alternative schools I have yet to meet an actual graduate from OCA. I’ve meet lots who abandoned it because it wasn’t working for them and returned to another school option, and many more who after no succeeding at OCA just dropped out all together.

            You never answered my question, would you send your kids there?

          • Would I send my own kids to Connections Academy? If it seemed best for them, sure.

  • Teach

    This site is a life saver. I did not know what to do or how to do it until I bought some plans from these guys. Now I can rest easy knowing that all my lessons and talks and tests are done for me. It would be cheap at five times what I paid.

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