View Full Version : Manhatter-Other NYC charter school's $125,000 teacher salary experiment

03-14-2011, 10:23 AM
This from CBSNews (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/10/60minutes/main20041733_page1.shtml):
With state after state confronting massive budget problems, several governors have been looking to extract whatever they can from public employees like teachers, going after benefits packages and guaranteed job security that unions have won for them. But would teachers be willing to give up those protections for a chance to earn a lot more money?

There's a school in New York City that's trying to prove just that. It's a bold new experiment in public education called "TEP," which stands for The Equity Project (http://www.tepcharter.org/), a charter school that is publicly funded but privately run. It's offering its teachers $125,000 a year - more than double the national average.

TEP aims to prove that attracting the best and brightest teachers and holding them accountable for results is the essential ingredient to a school's success. Could this school become a national model for the future of public education? That's the $125,000 question.

"You pay your teachers $125,000 a year, which is a lot of money for a teacher in this country. Why?" Katie Couric asked Zeke Vanderhoek, the school's founder and principal.

"Because they're worth it, because teachers are the key, and if we can pay them this with the existing dollars, why aren't we doing it?" he replied.

They're doing it at TEP because Vanderhoek, 34, a former teacher, gets to decide who he hires and how much he pays them.

Asked how he thinks these high salaries will impact student achievement, Vanderhoek told Couric, "I don't think paying people more makes them a better teacher. You take a mediocre teacher, you double their salary, nothing's gonna change. So, if you wanna attract and retain talent, you have to pay for it. "

There are currently 247 fifth and sixth graders and 15 teachers; classes will eventually run through the eighth grade.

Asked how TEP teachers differ from teachers in other public schools, Vanderhoek said, "They're not. There are great teachers in almost every public school in the city. The difference is that they are often the exception, not the rule. So what we're trying to do is build a school where every teacher is a great teacher."

To find those teachers, Vanderhoek launched a nationwide talent search that's been called the "American Idol" of education. Thousands of applicants have sent in resumes and those who make it to the final round have to spend a day trying out in front of a very tough crowd.

The chosen include Joe Carbone, a former NBA trainer, Rhena Jasey, a Harvard grad who's been teaching for eight years, and Gina Galassi, an accomplished violist who teaches music.

"When you first saw the ad that said the starting salary would be $125,000, what did you think?" Couric asked Galassi.

"I thought too good to be true. I said 'This is like some wacko cult' or something. It didn't make sense, you know. What was the catch?" she replied.

The catch is that with those higher salaries come higher expectations, and unlike most schools, those who don't meet Vanderhoek's standards will be shown the door.

"There's no contract. We're at-will," special education teacher Judy LeFevre told Couric.

The school survives on public funding alone, and Vanderhoek is able to pay his teachers well by reallocating resources. There are no state-of-the-art facilities - classes take place in trailers. And the money that would go to pay for an assistant principal, reading specialist and other staff goes into teachers' salaries. But that means the teachers have to do those jobs as well.

"You're doing a lot more than teaching here. So do you ever feel like, 'Well, gosh, I'm making a lot of money, but jeez, I'm doing a lot of jobs here'?" Couric asked Casey Ash, who teaches social studies.

"That's what we signed up for," Ash replied.

They also signed up to be continuously evaluated by Vanderhoek and each other. Even after the last bell, they're still at it, analyzing teaching videos like coaches reviewing game tapes.

Skills like classroom management, getting kids settled in and ready to learn are key.

"The greatest benefit of working here is that it's not okay to just be okay. And every lesson does need to be laser focused and super sharp so that you can get the best outcomes from it," Ash explained.

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