Our TLP technical assistance (TA) team recently interviewed Stephanie Slates, TIF project director for New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO), to learn more about the partnership that NSNO has established with six local charter school operators.
What do you think are the most unique or innovative aspects of your grant project?
NSNO's 2010 TIF 3 grant focused on attracting, retaining, and rewarding effective educators with end-of-year performance awards. The TIF 3 grant helped partner schools develop the internal systems necessary to implement a performance-based compensation system (PBCS), including building data systems and communications plans with staff and ensuring that observers are trained on evaluation rubrics. Our TIF 5 grant builds on this work by helping partner organizations shift from end-of-year performance awards to new salary models that reward great educators. Our partners are also building on systems built in TIF 3 to design and implement teacher career pathways. The NSNO TIF 5 grant project aims to support the design and refinement of performance-based compensation systems (PBCS) and teacher career pathways for six charter school operators that run 23 schools in New Orleans. By helping operators implement these systems, the project seeks to increase student achievement through improving educator effectiveness and retention. Our partner operators are required to incorporate educator feedback into the design of these systems and sustain the work after the TIF grant ends.
Another unique aspect of our grant is alignment with Louisiana's plan to ensure equitable access to effective educators by allowing operators to use grant funds to help offset the cost of hiring a resident teacher trained through the Relay Graduate School of Education.
Our grant provides operators with differentiated support from the New Teacher Project to reach TIF goals while honoring the differing structures and missions of each operator. Within the parameters we have outlined with partners, they have autonomy to customize their PBCS and pathways. Another unique aspect of our grant is alignment with Louisiana's plan to ensure equitable access to effective educators by allowing operators to use grant funds to help offset the cost of hiring a resident teacher trained through the Relay Graduate School of Education.
We are working with Relay Graduate School of Education in two ways. First, our grant provides funds for school leaders who need additional training in observation/feedback cycles and/or data-driven instruction to attend Relay's National Principals Academy Fellowship. Second, as part of our efforts to align our work with Louisiana's plan to ensure equitable access to high-quality teachers, partners can use TIF funds to offset the cost of hiring a teacher resident who is enrolled in Relay's residency program. Louisiana's plan focuses heavily on ensuring teacher candidates are better prepared and have more practice before becoming full-time teachers of record through teacher residency programs, such as the one offered by Relay.
Can you also describe briefly your project design? Tell us how it fits your specific context and why this design is right for you.
We are partnering with six different charter operators that run 23 schools across the city. Each of these six organizations is unique in size, structure, and current design phase for its PBCS and teacher career pathway. As such, they are on different timelines and have different next steps associated with building and/or refining their PBCS and teacher career pathways. As an example, one partner has a PBCS in place but is working to refine their model by adding a measure of student achievement into how compensation and pathways are determined. Another partner only had structures in place to support end-of-year performance awards and needs more support to transition to building a new compensation model. We are working closely with staff from TNTP, who are providing differentiated technical assistance to charter operators, to meet partners where they are. At a high level, we are working to ensure that each organization's models are based on at least two observations and a measure of student achievement and that educator feedback is incorporated into the model design.
The autonomy for each partner to create a system that works for their organization is truly the most unique aspect of NOLA TIF's approach to PBCS and teacher career pathways. In an almost all-charter environment, educators are at-will employees and have a choice over their place of employment; therefore, empowering operators to have the autonomy to define their PBCS and pathways within TIF parameters will allow them to attract, hire and retain their best educators.
Although it has not been long since the project started, what has surprised you the most so far?
In our decentralized system where teachers and leaders can choose where they work, it is critical to support operators in building their PBCS and teacher career pathways, so they can attract great educators. We are excited that our TIF grant provides the opportunity for operators to engage in this work.