Securitizing Teens

What’s the best way to pay teachers based on performance? One Planet Money listener suggests tying teacher pay to their students’ future earnings, turning the students into “investments.” The scheme is reminiscent of Monetizing Emma, a play that recently ran in New York, about a future when Wall Street traders invest in smart schoolkids in return for a substantial share of their future earnings. Naturally, in this system, some children would be seen as “too bright to fail.” [%comments]


Interesting, but certainly not realizable. And upon a bit deeper thinking, not even desirable. As a high school math teacher I would love more than anything for some of my kids to veer from their medical, legal, or business ambitions and focus on pure science and math. Which would not be advantageous to their future income. And what about going into education, journalism, the peace corps....?

Assessing teachers based on students' future salaries misses the point. I'd rather produce a good person than a good earner.


What a scary thought every teacher trying to create a world of CEOs and lawyers so that they can pay their rent. I think I will opt out of that system thanks.


A form of this is done in club soccer around the world. Poor "clubs" sell the rights to the most talented players to bigger/richer soccer clubs. Even at the professional level, players are sold and loaned to other clubs.

When players no longer have promise or don't improve as much as needed, they are replaced with players with more promise.

Although this system is imperfect since much of what is taught in school has little monetary value, I do think we need to encourage more of our students to follow more practical areas of study (many of our doctors, scientists, and engineers are from foreign countries).

Eric W

Wow, how many different ways this would be a bad idea.

1) Wise teachers would never want to teach where students have a, statistically, poor lifetime earnings potential.

2) I see only a small overlap between "a good, sound, education" and "teaching someone to be monetarily successful"

3) Punishing teachers for factors well outside their control


Quite a scary thought if you consider how many brights kids we all knew at school who turned out to be bums of some description in adulthood.

This is a particularly risky investment because a person emobodies too many variables you can't possibly control for, especially when one considers that to reach adulthood one first has to survive being a teenager - a challenge that has thwarted many a promising child.


My wife (a teacher) and I have talked about this before. But as becomes apparent from even a cursory analysis, there are real problems with this idea. It gives even more incentives for the really good teachers to move to district with high "success" rates. It seems rather implausible that a teacher under this system would want to teach in a school where there are bad family/home dynamics, insufficient economic resources to attain higher education, etc. In these schools a great teacher would be under-rewarded, whereas teachers in schools with lots of positives would be rewarded even if they are BAD teachers.

It would also create a situation that would disadvantage schools with low enrollment. A teacher, just based on sheer odds, would want a class with MORE students for the increased chance of striking it rich. This might mean schools where teachers only teach 12 students per year (12 students * 30 years) have significantly fewer "chances" than teachers with say, 24-30 kids in a class.



Like most job in the corporate world, overall performance is derived from a multitude of objective metrics, observation and even subjective ratings. Teaching is no different and I believe it's fully possible to create a thorough and balanced scorecard that combines such things as: student test and grade performance, attendance, graduation rates, student survey ratings (older children), parent survey ratings, administrator observation and peer teacher ratings.

Now here's my off the wall idea to drive better performance. What if a teacher kept the exact same class from first grade to high school graduation (for core classes). Wouldn't it create more accountability across the whole system?

Mike K.

However, the system wouldn't have to work as a straight bulk system. It could be normalized to account for differences in number of kids and differences in expected income. Teachers could be paid for "value over replacement teacher" - the amount more that students in their classes make per student relative to the school as a whole. If the incentives were large enough, one could see this actually encouraging teachers to go to schools with lower averages, since a dramatic impact would probably be easier to achieve.


What about securitizing professional athletes? Athletes could sell half the equity in themselves for cash. Investors can then determine the PV an athlete's future earnings potential (endorsements, salary/winnings, etc.), and quarterly the cash flows will flow through as a dividend until the equity becomes worth 0 after retirement and the last endorsement expires.

It allows athletes to cash in on their potential (hedging injury risk) while maintaining their incentive to earn and perform, and investors get an appealing long-term security.


matt -

Your ideas are nice, but you're forgetting about the real problem in education -- parents and/or students who just don't care! I can teach amazing lessons full of fun, but if a kid doesn't want to learn the information I can't make him or her. I have a student for 6 hours a day, and 180 days a year. I don't have nearly the influence that the student's family and community possess. Even if I taught the child for multiple years, my impact would not be as strong as the child's home life and background. School is NOT cool or a family priority for the majority of children I teach.

If you want to hold me accountable for students' grades, you must hold parents accountable as well. We need to go back to tying any type of federal/state benefits to student attendance, parent involvement, and discipline. Some of my students' parents tell me when they are at school they are my problem (but will happily call and cuss me out when I deal with behavior myself.) Once the family and community are back on board, I will be happy to discuss the idea of accountability pay.


Dirk Angry

Yes, it would be a great way to keep every student out of basic science, which, for the most part, does not produce anythin remotely resembling profit. We would save tons of money, let's just hope the science we know today gets us into the future.

I hate to make this comparison because it's usually ridiculous, and inaccurate, but it's totally fit, because it works the same. In the years before WWII, the Nazis stopped funding the study of atomic physics, number theory, and every other kind of science that was not inmediately conducing to the making of better weapons, higher industrial productivity, etcetera, saying that was "jewish science", and that people should only do "fruitful" science. Look where that got them. Imagine they had done the opposite, and had a nuclear program a year earlier.

I'm sorry but basic science works like that: Thousands of scientists work in those "who cares?" fields, and discover thousands of "who cares?" facts a year, until somebody discovers a deeper meaning in one of those facts or sets of facts, or an application.

For example:
Who cares whether green and yellow beans produce green or yellow offspring? we're going to eat them the same. <-- So, we don't research genetics because they don't give us any benefit. No need to say what benefits it's given us. Who cares whether or not we can put a man on the moon? Is he going to bring us cheap food? energy? weapons to beat the russians? Well, as a minimum, he forced us to make smaller computers, with the undeniable revolution that brought. Who cares why the bacteria in that petri dish died? Well, penicilline had benefits which were inmediate enough to have had somebody investing in it, but it was an accident, and nobody remembers what Fleming was investigating, so he probably wouldn't have been. Who cares about number theory? Who cares about wheter there are three prime numbers which are a solution to a?+b?=c?, and we wouldn't have secure comunnications, secure bank accounts, cellphones, credit cards... and we're talking about a field that had been investigated since ancient Greece (and probably earlier) without giving a single practical application, just as simple "divertimento" So, to sum it up: way to keep our chances of future breakthroughs low. The applied science may produce much more benefits, but it needs all the basic science to produce any results, whether or not the people doing the basic science are well paid or not.


Jim Cooper

I used to like the idea of incentivizing teachers by giving them a stake in their students earnings, but a conversation with a Korean friend cured me of that. She related how the educational system there depends on parents paying their students' teachers in addition to the teachers' salaries. Sadly, the children of parents who don't cough up cash are treated badly in class.

Eric M. Jones

I agree that there are so many things wrong with this system that it is hard to know where to begin....

Teachers using this system might just ignore students with learning difficulties and instead concentrate on sharp, good looking, future lawyers and bankers.


Michael Nahas

Milton and Rose Friedman already said they best way for students to pay for school is with a portion of future earnings. Students are a risky investment.

As for less promising students, they would have to pay a larger percentage of their future income to get the same quality of teaching. This make sense - they're a riskier investment and they should pay more for the same quality of teaching. Eventually, the cost-benefit trade-off would induce poorer students to leave school - which is probably an optimal solution. "Send everyone to college" is a nice mantra, but really not practical nor useful.

As for paying teachers that way, it would be a tragedy of the commons. With say 12 teachers each taking a share of a student, a teacher's motivation would be to get his 1/12th of more students rather than improve the earning potential of a student he has a 1/12 of a fraction investment in.

It would be better to pay teachers on their improvements in students from the start to the end of the school year. Test students each year and have a statistician rank the teachers and pay them accordingly.



This is absurd!
This would guilt students into following the most prosperous career paths, not the jobs they love. Careers in the nonprofit world would not be explored or even remotely encouraged in high school, where kids start to really figure out what they might want to do! I'm astonished that anyone would actually consider this... as many other commenters have said, the consequences would be horrific.
Oh yea, and no one would ever ever ever want to teach in a low-income, high crime area.



Very few teachers are motivated by more pay. This has been the case in almost every survey taken. Also I find it interesting that while we are trying to socilize medicine, education gets privatized.


I would have loved to have been LeBron James's PE teacher or Will Smith's drama teacher.

Robot Mistake

These comments are absurd!
Isn't this how the system already works?

Teachers at schools with poor students get payed less and have less resources than a teacher at a school with wealthier parents. Cost of living, whatever you want to call it that is my world view.

Private vs. Public education. Generational Wealth and such.


Matt's scheme (mentioned in Post 7) of having the same teacher K through 12th already exists -- It's called home schooling! It does have undeniable advantages, but one disadvantage is that the pupils are overexposed to the weaknesses and idiosyncrasies of a single teacher.

From what I understand the Oxford / Cambridge system sort of works along those lines at the college level; an assortment of professors but a single adviser (or whatever he's called) who meets with the student weekly.


This is already done: you just have to make it into graduate school first.