Transforming Teacher Compensation at U Prep – Uplifting the Profession

in News


“This is what is going to keep me in the classroom forever”
– Kia Smith (4th Grade Lead Teacher)

“Teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling.” We have known and directly witnessed this tremendously researched truth since our first U Prep campus opened its doors in August of 2011. Teachers truly make all the difference. And, while we have always cared for and invested in our teaching force, in this critical moment in time, we have taken that investment to a new level.
U Prep has dramatically revamped our teacher compensation system, ensuring that the dollars we put in our teachers’ pockets get far closer to honoring the impact they have on the lives of our scholars. Committing yourself to the classroom – to teaching our country’s next generation of leaders – should not and cannot mean sacrificing your earnings. Teachers, the ones who make all the difference, have to not only earn a livable wage, but experience a pathway to truly meaningful income at a far more rapid pace. Slow, linear growth of salaries that make you “stick it out” over decades while we live in an exponentially increasing cost of living environment simply doesn’t make sense and so we’ve taken a stand at U Prep – truly “putting our money where our mouth is.”
In the new system, our teachers start at a far more competitive salary and then grows at a rapid rate during the early window of their career (within the first 6 years with our organization). In other words, rather than wait to make “real money” in your second or third decade in the classroom, those salaries hit meaningful benchmarks well within the first decade.
As a concrete example, if a teacher chooses to start their career with U Prep out of college, they will enter the new system at $ 50,000. Then, over their first 6 years, they can grow their base salary by nearly $ 22,000 should they be high performing in the classroom (highly effective at supporting children in learning and growing). That means, by the time they’re roughly 27 years old, they’re still teaching, and as a base, are earning $ 72,000. On top of this figure, should they choose to take on additional responsibilities, i.e. coaching one of our Teaching Fellows (one year, alternative trajectory to becoming a teacher), or leading a grade level team, they can earn an additional $ 6,000. Further, with our ‘Master Teacher Trajectory,’ an additional incentive system that provides added compensation simply for being great at teaching and continuing to stay in the classroom, there is access to an additional $ 5,000 in annual earnings. Putting this all together – a 27-year-old who is committed to our children and our community, and who is leading a healthy and thriving classroom, while also supporting the overall health of the school through their additional responsibilities, is now earning $ 83,000.
While this figure still fails to match the earning potential that we all know exists in the private sector, it is a dramatic increase in earnings when it comes to the teaching profession, and an absolutely necessary step in the right direction. The graphs below further illustrate what our compensation system looks like in comparison to the district-wide system, and shows the earning potential of not only our fictitious 27-year-old detailed above, but what the same approach looks like for someone who joins us with a few years of experience under their belt.
Reflecting on U Prep’s new approach to teacher compensation, one of our incredible educators, Ms. Luna commented, “I can now see a pathway to a mortgage and my family gaining access to home ownership.” That’s what this is all about – our country’s most important employees, public school teachers, gaining access to meaningful pay for meaningful work. Ms. Smith, who has been an educator for more than a decade and with U Prep for four years, reviewed her salary range for the year ahead and breathed a deep sigh of relief. “This is what I needed,” she shared candidly, “this is what is going to keep me in the classroom forever.”
U Prep is not there yet when it comes to creating parity between our public education space and the private sector, but this spring we have taken a dramatic step towards bridging the divide and further uplifting the teaching profession for what it is – the most important work in our city, state and nation.
Yours in the Work,
David Singer, Founder & Executive Director
University Prep