Emily Ayscue Hassel and Bryan C. Hassel
In order to ensure that every child in America has access to a high quality teacher, this working paper suggests a seemingly basic strategy: increase the influence and reach of excellent teachers already in the system. The authors start with two assumptions: First, that teacher effectiveness has the greatest in-school effect on student achievement; and second, that the top quintile of teachers produce pupil gains three times that of the bottom quintile (hence the label “3X teachers”). Therefore, they go on to explain, efforts to improve teacher recruitment, incentives, and professional development are noble, but are incapable of producing widespread gains anytime soon. Instead, if schools committed now to extend the “reach” (number of children served) and “touch” (direct interaction with students) of their 3X teachers, they could immediately reduce the shortage and increase the distribution of high quality teachers without actually hiring any more. This can be done in three ways. First, schools could restructure teacher organization and responsibilities to allow 3X teachers to concentrate on instruction and eliminate time wasted on rote activities (e.g., 3X teachers could simultaneously manage multiple classrooms while other teachers work under their supervision.) Second, schools could use technology to bring a 3X teacher into classrooms by remote means. Ideally, this would occur on a scale small enough to allow for personal interaction but large enough to reach two or three times more students. Third, 3X teachers could spread their best practices and lessons through mass production of lesson videos and literature, allowing them to reach an unbounded number of students. To make this system work, explain the authors, teacher pay would need to be tweaked; for the extra work, 3X teachers should receive per-pupil bonuses (like those used in districts trying to incentivize larger class sizes) and, for option three, paid royalties for the instructional materials they produce. The authors do not address the myriad instructional and bureaucratic roadblocks that all such reforms would face or question whether such models would be attractive to any or all teachers--even with more pay, some 3X teachers might balk at the required workload. Yet it is easy to see the potential of such a simple solution: Why not make better use of the best teachers we already have? Read it here.