A school to watch
I’m intrigued by what I’m reading about The Equity Project (TEP) Charter School in New York City.
What’s attracting attention right now are the salaries that the school is paying teachers: $125,000 a year plus up to a $25,000 annual bonus based on schoolwide performance.
By anyone’s standards, that’s serious money.
TEP will begin the school year with 120 5th graders, many of them from low-income families and many of them with low academic performance. The school will add a grade a year until it becomes a 5-8 school with 480 children and 28 teachers. In addition to a traditional academic program of math, science, English, and social studies, TEP students will also take Latin and music every day and physical education three times a week. An extended day program offers tutoring in academics or extra-curricular opportunities, all staffed by teachers.
TEP also starts the school year with eight teaching stars, all hired after a nationwide search and after founder and principal Zeke Vanderhoek personally visited their classrooms to see them in action. When he announced his plans to seek the best teachers for his new school, Vanderhoek received 600 applications, according to the New York Times (June 4, 2009).
For their lofty salaries, teachers will work an 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. day and spend most of the summer in professional development. Each will also take on an administrative task, such as overseeing technology or assessments. Visual arts and technology are integrated into all courses, according to the web site.
“Teachers are the key lever to a great education for kids…so every dollar spent on a teacher is more valuable than a dollar spent on a variety of other education reforms,” Vanderhoek told the Christian Science Monitor (August 23, 2009, p. 15).
If Vanderhoek were doing nothing but providing big bucks to teachers, I wouldn’t be interested in his school. But, at least on the surface, he seems to be creating a school that believes in teacher expertise. Over time, I expect that he and his teachers will learn that they need other support systems to keep them going. I’m anxious to watch this school during this year and succeeding years.
Learn more about this project at www.tepcharter.org/