A New Teacher Salary: $125,000 per Year!
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How much is an amazing teacher worth? As much as a low-level worker, or a startup superstar? The Equity Project Charter School (TEP), set to open in 2009 in a low-income area of New York City, says it’s closer to the latter. The school is planning on paying teachers a whopping $125,000 a year, plus an annual bonus of up to $25,000—spending most of their budget on what they say is the essential component for student success…teacher quality. It’s a far cry from the $30,000-50,000 in pay most educators take home across the country. And it’s got the education community buzzing about the street value of our nation’s best teachers.
Even though many people talk a good game about the importance of education, when it comes to actual teacher paychecks, America doesn’t put her money where her mouth is. In fact, according to recent census data, over the past 60 years, teacher pay has fallen so sharply that teachers now make less than half the salary, on average, of other workers with at least four years of college. “This is the biggest gap in pay since a college degree was first required to teach,” says Deborah Ward, spokesperson for New York State United Teachers, an organization that represents more than 600,000 educators, and is affiliated with the National Education Association. “At the same time, academic standards have risen and students are expected to achieve at higher levels than ever before.”
In the past few years, there’s been a lot of hand wringing and finger wagging about the state of the U.S. education system and what can be done about the difficulty in recruiting and retaining high quality teachers. The Equity Project Charter School says the equation is simple: high pay + high expectations = high student achievement. The school aims to put into practice the major conclusion of a large number of research studies on academic success: that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in student success.
Competition for TEP jobs will likely be fierce, and so will expectations. In order to get hired, TEP teachers need to ace standardized tests, submit multiple writing samples, craft personal essays, assemble a portfolio of former students’ achievements, showcase innovative curriculum, and do three live teaching auditions.
And once they’re hired, they’ll be burning the midnight oil…or at least putting in a longer-than-usual school day. Forget the 9-2 schedule. TEP teachers will work “professional hours”, typically from 8 AM- 6 PM. They’ll attend a 6-week summer development institute. And they’ll spend 3 hours per week leading an extra-curricular activity during the school’s mandatory extended-day program. They’ll observe their fellow teachers and they’ll be observed. Plus, they’ll pitch in every day performing administrative duties that at other schools are handled by support staff.