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Charter School Offers “Revolutionary” Salary

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A New York City charter school has created some buzz over the past few months by offering teachers an eye-catching starting salary of $125,000. The Equity Project (TEP) Charter School, a middle school scheduled to open in September 2009, is founded upon the idea that offering such “revolutionary compensation” will help it attract and retain high-quality, go-the-extra-mile teachers who aren’t afraid to put in a little overtime.

The school, founded by Zeke Vanderhoek, who is the school’s first principal, will serve students from low-income families. Emphasizing the importance of teacher quality to the school’s success, Vanderhoek and his team will spend over a year recruiting master teachers who fulfill its extensive qualifications.

According the school’s Web site, TEP requires teacher applicants to meet eight “rigorous” qualifications in four major areas. Applicants must score 90 percent or higher on a standardized test in a relevant subject area and in the verbal section of the GRE, GMAT, or LSAT, and provide significant examples of personal and student academic achievement. Vanderhoek and a recruitment advisory team will select applicants who strongly meet these qualifications in both a preliminary and a complete application for live classroom auditions.

The most important step in the preliminary application, Vanderhoek said in a phone interview, is providing three tangible pieces of evidence of student achievement. This portion of the application is purposefully vague so that he and the recruitment team can identify who is truly reflecting on what “student achievement” means. He admits there is no clear-cut answer.

“What is the evidence you have that shows your students are achieving and growing?” Vanderhoek says in summary of this demand.

High expectations will continue beyond the application stage. TEP Teachers will work business-professional hours (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.), teach only one subject for one grade level, and be required to spend time each week leading an extra-curricular activity. They also will engage in and be subject to daily peer observation.

Significantly, teachers will also be expected to take on non-instructional roles, such as attendance and home visits director and school events coordinator. This staffing-model will enable the school to operate with mainly teachers, allowing for TEP to pay teachers the higher salaries with funds that would have gone to non-teaching positions.

Although the school year follows that set by the New York City’s Department of Education, TEP teachers will be expected to attend a six-week summer development institute to pursue professional development opportunities. To start with, TEP is accepting applications to fill seven classroom positions for a body of 120. Ultimately, the school plans to fill 28 teaching positions to lead a total capacity of 480 students by 2012, adding one cohort of students each year. Teachers interested in applying, even for positions in future years, should visit www.tepcharter.org/apply.php.

“If [teachers are] interested in a challenge and are looking to be valued in a real way, they should apply,” Vanderhoek said.

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