Friday, June 5, 2009


The national average for public educators, grades K-12 hovers around $42,000.00, hardly the stuff that dreams are made of. Of all the reasons to be an educator, leaving a meaningful legacy, personal fulfillment, making a difference, etc., money is obviously well down on the list. So given the dismal U.S. testing and retention scores over the past decade, would elevating teacher salaries make a demonstrable difference? What if we raised teacher salaries, to say, $125,000.00 a year, with a potential for a yearly bonus of $25,000.00? How about if we kick in medical, dental, and vision coverage, a 403b retirement plan, short and long term disability insurance, and term life insurance?

This is the question raised....the real world question being tried by the Equity Project (link). Let's start with their mission statement...
The Equity Project (TEP) Charter School believes that teacher quality is the most important factor in achieving educational equity for low income students.
Spurred by this belief, TEP reallocates its public funds by making an unprecedented investment in attracting and retaining great teachers.
First, all TEP teachers earn a $125,000 salary, plus an annual bonus of up to $25,000.

A bold initiative, to be sure. But this is not theory. This is going to be tried and evaluated, poked and prodded in their first initiative, a 480 student middle school in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City that will open in September 2009.

Will they receive a line of applicants around the block? Of course they will. But not just any teacher will be eligible, they have set a rigorous set of qualifications necessary in order to be considered for hire; expert subject-area knowledge, teaching expertise and experience, strong curriculum development ability, and finally, outstanding verbal ability.

How will the applicants demonstrate their abilities in these areas? By submitting two of the following: (1) an unedited video clip of a lesson, accompanied by a written narrative that analyzes and reflects upon the teaching and learning that occurs in the lesson, (2) a portfolio of student work that demonstrates the progress of 2 specific students, accompanied by a written narrative that analyzes the progress that each student demonstrates, or (3) assessment data for at least one entire class of students accompanied by a written narrative that provides background on the assessments and analyzes the data.

Stringent requirements you say? There's more....the submission of one additional piece of evidence of any form demonstrating student learning, an essay describing personal pedagogical beliefs and approach, and a day-long teaching audition (either in the candidate’s classroom or in a TEP classroom).

As pictured above, the schedule for the students is demanding, focusing on core subjects, and Latin. For the teachers, they will focus their concentrations on teaching one subject only, and will work a typical day of 8am to 6pm, with ample time for prep work during the day.

Whether or not it fully succeeds, the Equity Project school is a truly groundbreaking experiment that will help children nationally as school systems struggle for ways to draw the best teachers to the toughest teaching environments. The Equity Project's basic paradigm is that excellent teachers are more valuable to society than smaller classes or new classroom technologies and therefore should be highly compensated. Implementation of that concept is long overdue.

Innovative? Try this on for size. The principal will actually make less money than the teachers, with a principal position making $90,000.00 per year. Do I think it will succeed? I hope so. With a little innovation, a little public support and the best educators money can buy, I think this idea has the potential to take the educational system by storm. Only time will tell.

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