JUST LIKE THE TEACHERS HE HIRES, A CHARTER SCHOOL PRINCIPAL SAYS HE SHOULD LOSE HIS JOB, TOO,
IF TEST SCORES DO NOT IMPROVE - "60 MINUTES"
New Charter School Pays Teachers $125K to Attract the Very Best
The principal of a new experimental charter school where well-paid teachers cannot get tenure and, unlike in unionized public schools, can be fired easily if they don't measure up, says he shouldn't keep his job either if his students' test scores don't improve in the first four years. Zeke Vanderhoek, founder of The Equity Project charter school in New York City, speaks to Katie Couric for a 60 MINUTES story that explores the raging issue of unions and tenure in education. It will be broadcast Sunday, March 13 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
One of the reasons teachers want to work at The Equity Project without a union contract or tenure is the salary -- $125,000 per year. It's among the highest pay for teachers in the U.S. and the big idea behind the school. "If you want to attract and retain talent, you have to pay for it," says Vanderhoek, who attracted hundreds of applicants with that salary, from which he hired a small fraction.
The Equity Project aims to put the best teachers in every classroom. "There are great teachers in almost every public school in the city. The difference is that they are often the exception, not the rule," he tells Couric. "So, what we are trying to do is build a school where every teacher is a great teacher." Watch a clip.
The Equity Project is publicly funded and privately run by Vanderhoek and his staff in a low-income neighborhood in Manhattan. He makes the limited public funding work by tasking the teachers with multiple jobs, using the money saved to pay them more. The students are mostly poor and more than two thirds are reading below grade level. "The difference between a great teacher and a mediocre or poor teacher is several grade levels of achievement," says Vanderhoek. "A school that focuses all of its energy and resources on fantastic teaching can bridge the achievement gap."
The school, comprised so far of fifth and sixth graders only, still has an achievement gap a year and a half after it opened. The fifth graders did not do as well on average as their peers at regular public schools in their district on state math and reading tests after their first year. Vanderhoek has let some of his teachers go and believes the process will take a few years before the students improve and reach their potential. And if they do not?
"Ultimately, to build an excellent organization is going to take time and if that doesn't happen, let's say, four years from now, then I shouldn't keep my job," Vanderhoek tells Couric.