Here’s a question: if top-quintile teachers get three times (3X) the learning gains of the bottom quintile, why is it that schools give them the same number of kids to teach as the bottom quintile? Why do schools ever have top-quintile teachers monitoring the lunch room or recess, or doing any of the rote parts of teaching, instead of treating their time like the precious asset it is? Instead of just trying to recruit more great teachers, what if schools chose to reach more children with the great teachers they already have?

We call this “reach extension,” and you can read more about it in a new working paper we prepared with support from the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation. Reach extension can take several forms, such as redesigning jobs to concentrate 3X teacher time on instruction, putting star teachers in charge of more children’s learning, and using technology to extend 3X teacher reach and meet their standard. Potential reach-extension methods vary according to the level of “touch,” or direct student interaction with 3X teachers, and “reach,” or number of children served by each 3X instructor.

By eliminating rote and non-instructional duties from 3X teachers’ schedules, many methods would increase touch and reach simultaneously – especially benefiting students who, because of age or learning needs, learn best with high levels of teacher interaction. Even high-touch, low-reach methods of reach extension could significantly increase the number of children learning from top-quintile teachers. Star teachers whose reach is extended would have unprecedented opportunities for achievement and could be paid more from existing per-pupil funding streams. We hope this working paper will launch further thinking and action to achieve “3X for All.” More immediately, we hope it will launch some comments from the Ed Next blog audience, so have at it.

Last updated October 26, 2009