The Equity Project (TEP) Charter School, a 480-student middle school in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City that opened 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. 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.
TEP recruits master teachers who meet rigorous qualifications in four major areas. These teachers then meet TEP’s redefined expectations. These expectations center on (a) a professional work-day that includes weekly peer observations and co-teaching (b) a work-year that includes an annual 6-week Summer Development Institute, and (c) a career arc that fosters professional growth through a mandatory sabbatical once every five or six years. These redefined expectations are unified by one principle: student achievement is maximized when teachers have the time and support to constantly improve their craft.
TEP teachers are valued and sustained through revolutionary compensation: a $125,000 annual salary and the opportunity to earn a significant annual bonus based on school-wide performance. TEP has created a sustainable and conservative financial model that allows the school to compensate its teachers appropriately without relying on outside private funding. It accomplishes this primarily through cost savings that result directly from the tremendous quality and productivity of its teachers. In short, hiring and paying master teachers what they are worth is a cost-effective mechanism for boosting student achievement.