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TEP Charter model sparks debate among educators

Posts about The Equity Project (TEP) Charter School — that’s the one where teachers will make $125,000 — brought out strong feelings from educators and advocates both at the New York Times Lesson Plans blog and here at GothamSchools.

In our comments, Leonie Haimson, a leading advocate for smaller classes in the city’s public schools, points out that TEP will save money partly by putting 30 students in a class (the TEP website does say this, although not in the section aimed at educators). She points to comments at the Times where teachers question the priorities of the TEP model. Alex, for example, suggests cutting the salary to $75,000 and drastically reducing class size with the extra funds.

GothamSchools commenter Maria Escalan worries that dividing up administrative responsibilities among teachers will end up overburdening them:

Our principal who kept experimenting with different reforms on our already successful school had the brillant idea of letting teachers assume lots more responsibility outside of the normal teaching activities. The consequence was that a lot of my colleagues expended a lot of time and energy on activities that were not instructional and the quality of their teaching suffered.

I think it’s worth noting that the TEP plan is to give each teacher a single clearly-defined “whole school service” role, ranging from dean of discipline to events coordinator to parent and community involvement coordinator. It’s not just asking people to step up as needed, which, in my experience, usually results in a few teachers taking on way too much. And, contrary to the belief of at least one Times commenter, custodial duties are not among the listed whole school service jobs.

In exchange for the higher salaries, TEP expects teachers to work a longer day, but builds in time for the whole school service tasks, along with two to three hours of prep time. And each teacher teaches just one subject, to one grade, reducing prep responsibilities as well. On the other hand, each teacher is required to teach in the school’s extended-day program, another place where the school saves by eliminating the extra cost of an after-school program.

Whether the model works or not remains to be seen — a lot will depend on the school leadership, as schoolgal points out at the Times:

While I support the salary, I also hope these teachers are treated with the utmost respect by principal, students and parents, and have a greater roll in the decision-making process–something that is also lacking in the NYC school system.

TEP is getting tons of attention for the $125,000 salaries, but the model has many interesting elements. Spend some time on the school’s website to get the details, and then come back and tell us what you think.

(Also, those who are interested in meeting the school’s founder should check out this barbecue organized by Democrats for Education Reform).

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.