Discuss the "Rock Star" Teacher Idea While I Take a Trip to the Beach

Next week I’ll be on vacation at the beach, and blogging won’t be high on my priority list. But before taking off, I want to leave you with a glimpse into a school model based on the “rock star” teacher idea. This doesn’t mean bringing in real-life rock stars to teach. To my mom and dad, that probably would be some guy named Bon Jovi. To my gramps, maybe some ancient dude named Elvis I’ve heard him talk about.

But they’d all be wrong. In a nutshell, the idea is to free up funds to pay the best teachers more by allowing for larger class sizes. The question is: Will it work?

Over at Jay Greene’s blog, Dr. Matt Ladner has written about the “rock star” teacher idea several times. The latest highlights a New York Times story about a Washington Heights school scheduled to open in the fall that will pay its eight teachers each $125,000 a year, with a chance to earn more in performance incentives.

Judging by the story, these teachers look really smart and really good at what they do. Yeah, there’s the two Ivy League graduates and the accomplished viola player, but I think having Kobe Bryant’s former personal trainer as a P.E. teacher would be the coolest of all.

To learn more about the “rock star” teacher idea, check out Matt Ladner’s Goldwater Institute report (PDF). You’ll see some detailed ideas of how to budget for this model, and some specific merit pay suggestions to go with it.

As he points out, many parents are still very wedded to the small class size idea. So implementing the “rock star” teacher school model won’t be easy and may have to be done gradually. But if a few schools were to start doing the job well — like the one with Kobe Bryant’s former personal trainer, or some other district or public charter schools — and there may be a growing clamor for it. Who knows?