The ROI of Teacher Compensation and Professional Development

Teachers are the very essence of a school. If school leaders want high quality programs with substance and measurable results, they need look no further than investing in the development of their faculty and staff. The Return on Investment (ROI) for competitive compensation packages and personalized quality professional development for teachers is significant.

For example, investment might include more funds toward technology for teachers. “In fact, providing appropriate technology may arguably be among the most cost-effective ways to increase teacher effectiveness and satisfaction” (Gene Frost, Learning from the Best: Growing Greatness in the Christian School). In addition, where faculty and staff paychecks are higher, so are levels of student achievement. Teacher compensation makes a difference in:

  • faculty engagement
  • motivation
  • satisfaction
  • retention
  • and continual personal and professional development

Well-compensated teachers have higher levels of confidence and trust in their school leader and are self-motivated and often self-monitoring to a greater degree regarding their impact on students.

Investing highly in faculty and staff members is a challenge in all school settings –especially for a large number of Christian schools.

I am aware of the potential impact on the typical Christian school budget… the average Christian school would at minimum need to double its budget if it chose to compensate its teachers on a level equal to that of the local public school. Few schools could easily manage that kind of adjustment to their budgets and the necessary impact on their tuition levels. (Alan Pue, Rethinking  Sustainability: A Strategic Financial Model for Christian Schools)

However, leaders who understand that teachers are the essence of their school, do everything possible to invest in them and do everything within their power to make those kinds of budgetary adjustments.

Today, many believe that state-of-the-art facilities and resources are required for successful schools and high levels of student achievement. Those support structures and elements certainly help – but the key to an effective educational program is, and always has been, a highly qualified and engaged faculty and staff.

In the 1950s, the U.S. public school system abandoned the simple one-room school model, which focused on placing the taxpayer’s investment into a gifted and skilled teacher focused on serving a diverse group of students in a local setting. The strength of their educational services was developing trusted relationships, not technology, or facilities. This approach was abandoned for the factory-style consolidated system, which has continually fallen behind in international educational performance rankings, and has met the intended purposes of greater efficiency and increased levels of student achievement in only a few settings.

In recent years, a renewed focus on the value and quality of the simple, yet formidable one-room-style of education has seen great results. There is also renewed understanding that trusted relationships are of much greater value than school facilities and/or 21st century instructional resources. A large study, involving 400 Chicago area elementary schools, concluded that trusted relationships are the central component to “effective education communities” (Anthony Bryk and Barbara Schneider, “Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for School Reform,” Educational Leadership 60, no. 6 (2003): 40-45).

In 2010, while attending a graduate course through the College of New Jersey in partnership with The Principal’s Training Center, I was introduced to an educational term that was new for me – Vertical Classrooms. I learned it was not a new educational strategy but a reinvention of the old one-room schoolhouse my parents experienced. Vertical Classrooms simply describes mixed-age learning environments, where different grade levels are taught in the same setting. Research shows that students perform better in heterogeneous environments (i.e. both mixed-age and diverse learning styles and needs of students). For example, one study identified the high value of lateral communication in heterogeneous classrooms. The old becomes new again! Classrooms led by highly trained, well-supported teachers, provide a much greater ROI than spacious facilities, high technology, or athletic fields. Investing in the school’s greatest resource (i.e. teachers) also demonstrates trust in those individuals as professionals, fostering a deeper level of trust in return.

©Toby A. Travis, Ed.D. All Rights Reserved

Recommended Reading:

  • Steven G. Rivkin, Eric A. Hanushek, and John F. Kain, “Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement,” Econometrica 73, no. 2 (2005): 417-458.
  • David N. Figlio and Lawrence W. Kenny, “Individual teacher incentives and student performance,” Journal of Public Economics 91, no. 5-6 (2007): 901-914.
  • “The U.S. ranks 17th in educational performance,” Ranking America, accessed 20 June 2016,  Also see Craig Howley, Jerry Johnson, and Jennifer Petrie, “Consolidation of Schools and Districts: What the Research Says and What it Means,” National Education Policy Center, accessed 3 July 2016,
  • LaRhee Henderson, Charisse Buising, and Piper Wall, “Teaching undergraduate research: The one-room schoolhouse model,” Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education 36, no. 1 (2008): 28-33.
  • Elizabeth G. Cohen, Rachel A. Lotan, and Chaub Leechor, “Can classrooms learn?” Sociology of Education 62, no. 2 (1989): 75-94.


  1. I would say that in an elementary setting it would be quite consuming but with a lot of patience and tolerance it could be possible. After all we are better equipped nowadays!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is good methodology and can be effective informal education system where we find mixed -age students but I don’t know how is it implementable and effective in a formal system of education in elementary schools

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Note that vertical classrooms are being utilized in formal systems in education that are committed to research based best practices and modify their systems according to what is best for students and their learning.


  3. You are a gem. I absolutely love this article. I have seen great benefits of the vertical classroom, which I apply in a home school setting at and that I am now implementing in a large children’s home of 500 orphans and vulnerable children who are preparing to sit for Kenya national exams.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks so much Toby. I will quote you often in my work going forward, especially the research about trusting relationships being the central component to effective education communities.

    Liked by 1 person

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