Two Claps and a Sizzle for Strong Teachers & Strong Results

Yesterday we were featured in a NY Times article, At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice, and we’re excited that fantastic teachers like Tyler Dowdy, a successful teacher and future leader in our organization, were highlighted. 

What we felt was missing in the piece was the link between our young teaching force and our strong student achievement results.  Instead of focusing on why we have so many young teachers, we’d love to start talking about how our young teachers are able to get such strong results; results that have led to our winning of the inaugural Broad Prize for Charters in 2012 and over 1,000 qualifying Advanced Placement scores in 2013.  Let’s go ahead and give 2 claps and a sizzle to our teachers and students for 15 years of sustained, high student achievement results!

In terms of our teacher turnover, it is definitely a reality in the charter movement, and increasingly in public education in general, that teachers are often not staying in the classroom long-term.  Is this a problem?  Only if we let it be.  With the right pieces in place, any teacher with any level of experience can be successful at YES Prep.

Rigorous Teacher Selection Process
Before teachers even walk through the door, they go through a rigorous interview process that is largely focused on making sure the people we hire have the right mindset to work at our organization.  Once we have the right person in place, our organizational programs and structures make it highly likely that teachers can get strong student achievement results in their first year of teaching.

AP-aligned Curriculum, Assessments & Resources
Once that new teacher comes into YES, whether they are experienced or right out of college, our curriculum already sets them up for immediate success.  We have worked relentlessly to build a curriculum, designed and continually revised by our teacher leaders, that is rigorous and aligned to AP standards.  With this in place, while our teachers are learning to deliver instruction effectively, we know as an organization that the content and skills every teacher is delivering and the assessments they are giving are pushing our students towards college readiness from day one. 

Intensive Teacher Development Program
The other essential component in creating effective teachers at an accelerated rate is our novice teacher development program, Teaching Excellence.  All of our teachers who are new to the profession go through this program that includes summer training and on-going development during the year that is based in personalized instructional coaching.  With these structures in place, we have been increasingly effective in driving even our newest teachers to get strong student achievement results. 

Teacher Continuum
For teachers who are happy and effective in the classroom, our Teacher Continuum is designed to celebrate and reward their effectiveness by linking it to their salary.  In simplest terms, if a new teacher comes in at $44K and is highly effective, by their 3rd year they can be making $54K, and by their 5th year, with excellent and consistent performance, they could be making $66K.  In our surrounding districts, a teacher with 5 years of experience would typically still be making below $50K.

Leading Excellence
Tyler Dowdy, who was highlighted in the article, represents a strong contingent within our organization who have been successful with their students and are ready to make a bigger impact within education.  This is not about burnout or disenchantment, this is about a drive to grow and have an impact, which is at the core of our organization and something to be excited about.  To encourage and support these strong teacher leaders, we have created the Leading Excellence program in order to develop our next generation of leaders.  In Houston there are thousands of students who still don’t have access to an excellent education and we’re hopeful that by expanding our leadership development programs, we can help create more schools and solutions for our city’s students.

We’re not claiming that we have all the answers or that our programs are easily transferrable to any situation, but we’re excited about our results and even more excited about the possibilities for the future. 

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