E4E-NY teacher Jessica Saratovsky blogs about the launch of TNTP's "The Irreplaceables"
Jessica Saratovsky teaches kindergarten at The New American Academy in Brooklyn and is an E4E - NY School Captain.
As I traveled to Washington, D.C. on July 31 for the launch of the new report, “The Irreplaceables”, published by The New Teacher Project (TNTP), I was fascinated by the amazing educators I was accompanied by. I engaged in conversations about shared leadership experiences with colleagues on the train ride and I talked to excellent teachers who won the TNTP Fishman Award and to hear how they innovate within their classrooms. The report highlights how opportunities for leadership and growth can help keep the best teachers in our highest-need classrooms. Having this opportunity to talk to other educators about how to keep Irreplaceables in the classroom allowed me to reflect on my own experience.
The report states that in order to keep good teachers in the classroom, it is crucial to foster their leadership qualities. At my first school, my principal gave me amazing professional development opportunities and worked to help nurture the leadership qualities within me. Now, however, I have been teaching first grade for eight years and am ready for new opportunities for professional growth. I was seeing less effective teachers get access to leadership opportunities and I was ready for a change. After reading an article in The New York Times by David Brooks about The New American Academy (TNAA) in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, I realized there were opportunities for professional growth outside my school.
TNAA has a clearly articulated career ladder, and an opportunity to grow into the role of Master Teacher. It has a four-step interview process that is designed to find those truly fit for the model.The salary scale reflects the position you have, and on average is 10% more than I would make staying at my current school. In the three weeks of my Summer Institute training, I have already experienced five out of the eight low-cost retention strategies for “Irreplaceables” that were cited in the research (p. 16). I have received regular, positive feedback; I have been helped to identify areas of development; I have been recognized publicly for accomplishments; I have been informed that I am high-performing; and I have identified opportunities for a path for teacher leader roles. All of this, and I haven’t even started teaching yet.
As the report notes, the link between school leaders and teacher retention is crucial. In DC I had an opportunity to hear Arne Duncan respond that there needs to be more accountability on school leaders. Much of what drew me to TNAA are the opportunities that the headmaster creates. He truly believes in our personal and professional development because the way we perform as teachers affects the whole school and broader community. He has a true investment in good teaching and a commitment to the students. I think it is important for people to understand that teachers can work the same number of hours and have similar training, but not be equally effective in the classroom.
It is vital to create opportunities within schools that allow for the truly talented teachers to stay, especially in low-performing schools. Students need these high-performing teachers. The New American Academy is an example of a school that has a true vision for empowering teachers and students and has the structures needed to retain “Irreplaceable” teachers. Based on my experiences, I think it is vital that more schools read the TNTP report and think about truly making change. Having the opportunity to talk to other educators is crucial in making that change. We as teachers owe it to our students to have a voice, a strong voice.