[News] High-salary, key teaching roles must be part of education reform

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To achieve greater impact, increased pay for expert teachers should come with a significant rewrite of the job description. In our 2020 report Top Teachers, we recommend that two new expert teacher positions be created – instructional specialists and master teachers – with much higher salaries.

These new roles would be designed for expert teachers who can demonstrate exceptional subject-specific knowledge and teaching skills and who take on dedicated responsibilities to work closely with classroom teachers.

Instructional specialists would work within schools to set the standard for good teaching, build teaching capacity, and spread evidence-informed practices. They would help teachers understand not just what to do but how to do it to meet the needs of their students. The responsibility to observe and coach other teachers in their classrooms would be a central requirement. Instructional specialists, limited to about 8 per cent of teachers, would be paid about $150,000 – or about $40,000 more than the highest pay rate for regular classroom teachers in NSW.

New master teachers should be charged with bringing rigor and coherence to professional judgments about best practice in our education system, with responsibility for improving teaching across multiple schools by coordinating professional learning, supporting instructional specialists, and connecting schools with research.

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They would be paid $80,000 more than the highest standard pay rate for teachers in NSW – or about $190,000. These positions would be limited to about 1 per cent of teachers – representing the pinnacle of the expert teacher career path.

Grattan Institute’s research shows that a better expert career path for teachers would also attract more high-achieving school-leavers to the profession. These reforms would give the typical Australian student an extra six-to-12 months of learning by Year 9, possibly much more.

School education in Australia is at a turning point. Either we continue to accept stagnating or declining student results, with much hand wringing but no genuine commitment to change, or governments and school leaders do the tough work required to reform schooling, starting with a genuine commitment to building and deploying expertise within the teaching profession.

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