High Salaries for Teachers and Significant Impacts on Student Achievement

Mathematica’s Evaluation of The Equity Project Charter School
Oct 22, 2014

The Equity Project (TEP) Charter School achieved widespread attention before it opened in 2009 because of its unique approach to rewarding and developing high quality teachers—including salaries of $125,000 and substantial professional responsibility—while receiving only the standard public funds available to any New York City charter school. TEP is a middle school that enrolled its first 5th-grade class during the 2009–2010 school year; in 2013 that class graduated from TEP’s 8th grade. Located in the Washington Heights neighborhood, TEP’s students are overwhelmingly low-income and Hispanic. Mathematica has been studying TEP’s operations and performance from the beginning, and a new report describes TEP’s instructional and personnel strategies, examines the characteristics and attrition rates of TEP students, and measures TEP’s impacts on student achievement during the school’s first four years of operation.

The Equity Project bar graph

A new report from Mathematica states that by the end of the 2012–2013 school year:

  • TEP’s impacts on student achievement were consistently positive across subjects and cohorts, with especially large effects in math.
  • Using benchmarks for average annual learning gains, students who attended TEP for four years had test score gains equal to an additional 1.6 years of school in math, an additional 0.4 years of school in English language arts, and an additional 0.6 years of school in science, compared to similar students in comparable New York City public schools.
  • TEP’s cumulative effect on student achievement over four years is approximately equivalent to 78% of the Hispanic-white achievement gap in math, 17% of the Hispanic-white gap in English language arts, and 25% of the Hispanic-white gap in science, using another relevant benchmark.

TEP achieves these positive impacts while serving students who are not only overwhelmingly low-income and Hispanic, but also as likely to receive special education services as students in other New York City public schools. TEP’s admissions process favors students who had low achievement levels in their previous schools. TEP’s student attrition rate is also similar to that of other comparable New York City schools.

Joshua Furgeson, senior researcher and director of the study, explains that “TEP redefines the teacher’s role with high salaries, ongoing development, more responsibilities, and accountability. The school’s success after four years provides a ‘proof of concept’ that this approach can result in substantial improvements in student achievement, even for disadvantaged students who enter with relatively low achievement levels.” He adds, “These findings are of broader interest because improving teacher quality is a primary goal of current education policy.”

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