The Equity Project (TEP) Charter School, a 480-student middle school in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City that will open in September 2009, aims to put into practice the central conclusion of a large body of research related to student achievement: teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in the academic success of students, particularly those from low-income families. [i] In singling out teacher quality as the essential lever in educational reform, TEP is uniquely focused on attracting and retaining master teachers. To do so, TEP uses a three-pronged strategy that it terms the 3 R’s: Rigorous Qualifications, Redefined Expectations, & Revolutionary Compensation.
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Like the Harlem Children’s Zone, The Equity Project looks to be promising. Regardless of its success, I’m thrilled that more people are experimenting with education in our country, and attempting to be highly innovative with their efforts and strategy. If I may be so bold, OUR KIDS ARE WORTH IT.
A few things I like.
1. The focus on excellent teachers. It is imperative that we continually think of “human resources” as the most central factor in any endeavor. This kind of focus also seems to tap in a bit to the once practiced “apprenticeship,” model which was focused on master teachers passing on their expertise to their pupils.
2. The focus on reallocating of funds. I like how their objective (whether they attain it or not) is not just on raising money, but doing better with the money that already exists. This forces the necessary creativity needed to be innovative, and it is frugal to boot.
3. The focus on language development. According to their website, “(2) TEP’s educational program strongly emphasizes language development.” (cf. Latin & Music) America’s lack of linguistic development, if continued, will eventually leave us behind in our ever-increasingly “flat” and inter-connected world.
A few questions.
1. How sustainable is this? The problem with such a high starting salary is that you reach the ceiling much quicker. Also, given the economy, would resources continue to be allocated towards endeavors such as this without a significant shift in our thinking (meaning values) regarding education, and specifically of the very young?
2. How scalable is this? Sure, pluck the best of the best, pay them lots of money, put them in one place and ‘boom,’ you’ve got a high class educational institution (or at least we’ll see if that’s what we get). But what about the institutions they left? How are they going to reach their maximum potential?
3. Is 5th grade perhaps a bit late? Given what many developmental psychologists will tell you, we may be missing a critical stage between ages 3 and 5?
[i] Dan Goldhaber and Emily Anthony, “Teacher Quality and Student Achievement,” ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education, Urban Diversity Series No. 115, May 2003: 1