Friday, June 05, 2009

It's the teachers, stupid! Pay $125,000 a year, and the whole picture will change

"Excellent teachers — and not revolutionary technology, talented principals or small class size — are the critical ingredient for success..."
(see full story below)

I agree with this concept. I believe that children taught by really good teachers will outstrip others within a few years.

Next Test: Value of $125,000-a-Year Teachers
The New York Times
June 4, 2009

So what kind of teachers could a school get if it paid them $125,000 a year?

An accomplished violist who infuses her music lessons with the neuroscience of why one needs to practice, and creatively worded instructions like, “Pass the melody gently, as if it were a bowl of Jell-O!”

A self-described “explorer” from Arizona who spent three decades honing her craft at public, private, urban and rural schools...

They are members of an eight-teacher dream team, lured to an innovative charter school that will open in Washington Heights in September with salaries that would make most teachers drop their chalk and swoon; $125,000 is nearly twice as much as the average New York City public school teacher earns...

The school, called the Equity Project, is premised on the theory that excellent teachers — and not revolutionary technology, talented principals or small class size — are the critical ingredient for success...

The school’s founder, Zeke M. Vanderhoek, 32, a Yale graduate who founded a test prep company, has been grappling with just these issues...

The Equity Project will open with 120 fifth graders chosen this spring in a lottery that gave preference to children from the neighborhood and to low academic performers; most students are from low-income Hispanic families. It will grow to 480 children in Grades 5 to 8, with 28 teachers.

The school received 600 applications. Mr. Vanderhoek interviewed 100 in person.

Along the way, Mr. Vanderhoek, who taught at a middle school in Washington Heights before founding Manhattan GMAT, learned a few lessons.

One was that a golden résumé and a well-run classroom are two different things. “There are people who it’s like, wow, they look great on paper, but the kids don’t respect them,” Mr. Vanderhoek said.

The eight winning candidates, he said, have some common traits, like a high “engagement factor,” as measured by the portion of a given time frame during which students seem so focused that they almost forget they are in class. They were expert at redirecting potential troublemakers, a crucial skill for middle school teachers. And they possessed a contagious enthusiasm...

Teachers said the rigorous selection process was more gratifying than grueling.

“It’s so refreshing that somebody comes to a teacher and says, ‘Show me what you know,’ ” said Oscar Quintero, who goes by Pepe and will teach special education. “This is the first time in 30 years of teaching that anybody has been really interested in what I do.”

[Maura Larkins' comment: In all my years at CVESD, no one ever showed any interest in what I knew. Year after year I learned more and more, but both principals and teachers were interested in politics, not knowledge.]

The school will use only public money for everything but its building...

...There will be no deans, substitute teachers (except for extended leaves)... Teachers will work longer hours and more days, and have 30 pupils, about 6 more than the typical New York City fifth-grade class.

The principal, Mr. Vanderhoek, will earn just $90,000. Teachers will not have the same retirement benefits as members of the city’s teachers’ union. And they can be fired at will...

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