October 30th, 2010

Creating a Teacher Economy (or, the world's most underpaid profession)

I make the claim that great K-12 teachers are the most underpaid professionals in the world, and my argument is simple. The value that a great teacher creates (by enabling her pupils to generate more value in the future) is wildly disproportionate to her salary.

I won't dwell on my claim further than point out a few things about the teaching profession: it is traditionally considered a working class role; it has relatively low prestige and mediocre pay; and that the primary concern of its union (NEA, the largest union in America) is to ensure that exceptional and deficient teachers receive the same salary and benefits.

Aligning incentives

Today the incentives for a prospective brilliant educator to become a teacher are close to none. How can we align the outcomes of excellent teaching with the incentives for becoming an excellent teacher?

A recent NPR article recounts how the 18th century English government fixed the high mortality rate of prisoners being shipped from England to Australia by paying per prisoners walking off of the ship in Australia, rather than per prisoner walking onto the ship in England. Instead of paying for a job, the government paid for the outcome of the job.

What if we did something similar with teachers? What if we directly correlated teachers' compensation with the future value generated by her pupils? I.e. what if we gave teachers a fraction of a percentage of her pupils' future earnings?

-> Discuss on HN