About TNAA Charter School
5800 Tilden Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11023
The New American Academy Charter School (TNAACS) opened in September 2013. TNAACS serves students in kindergarten and first grade, most of whom live in the school’s district of residence, Community School District 18. For more information about the school or to schedule a visit please contact our main office at 718.968.6520.
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Overview and Rationale: TNAACS is based upon The New American Academy model. Developed at Harvard’s Urban Superintendents Program (USP) by a cohort of six high-achieving principals (our lead applicant among them) the TNAA model draws upon research-based best practices from across the globe, and has been implemented with great success at P.S. 770, P.S. 274, and TNAACS.
The TNAA model is predicated upon the idea that student achievement is directly tied to the quality of teacher instruction. It is only by attracting, developing, and retaining skilled and talent teachers that significant educational progress can be made. As described by a recent McKinsey (2010) study:
The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. Research has shown that of all the controllable factors in an education system, the most important by far is the effectiveness of the classroom teacher. The world’s best-performing school systems make great teaching their “north star.” They have strategic and systematic approaches to attract, develop, retain, and ensure the efficacy of the most talented educators—and they make sure great teachers serve students of all socio-economic backgrounds. (p. 5)
Each of the components of the TNAA model listed below was chosen with this ideal in mind.
Key components: Key components of The New American Academy Model include:
1) Four Person Teaching Team: TNAA teacher teams work with the same 60-65 students within a grade-level cohort. In addition to a Master Teacher, each team includes licensed Special Education and English Second Language (ESL) teachers. Research has shown that four or five person teams provide the optimal balance between too many and too few voices. Teams allow for transparency, positive peer-pressure, multiple perspectives, and a diverse range of skill sets. Team-based models are common across a diverse range of sectors from the military to healthcare, and are being used with great success in schools across Victoria, Australia. Education, particularly in urban neighborhoods challenged by low socio-economic status, is a complex task deserving of the same professionalism that is now standard in other sectors.
2) Looping Cycles: Looping allows for the development of trust and meaningful relationships between students, parents, and their teaching team, and have been proven to improve student learning both nationally and internationally. The relationships developed encourage greater parent involvement, student-to-student interdependence, and allows for targeted and differentiated teaching. Our students loop with their classmates and teaching team for five years, with a constant of at least one teacher each year. Moreover, looping allows the teacher/s on a team to inform new teacher members of students’ learning profiles so that instruction can begin on the first day of school without having to spend weeks to get to know students and acculturate them into the classroom. Looping also provides a powerful and organic accountability system, as each teacher team will ultimately be directly responsible for their students’ scores in the testing grades.
3) Mastery-based Career Ladder: Research has shown that a quality teacher is the greatest single determinant of student academic success. Unfortunately, teacher ability and development is often not recognized or rewarded. A career ladder provides a continuum for teacher growth that is both supported and incentivized. The TNAACS four-step career ladder (apprentice, associate, partner, master) will be based on demonstrated ability, culminating with the Master Teacher. TNAACS teachers will receive higher salaries than their DOE counterparts with Master Teachers earning $120,000. This will attract and retain quality teachers and ensure that the most talented teachers can remain in the classroom directly supporting student learning.
4) Multi-dimensional Teacher Evaluation System: Good teaching is complex and nuanced. Our teacher evaluation system draws upon a diverse range of indicators, including student testing data, peer review, and Danielson-based classroom observations to create a holistic and accurate measure of teacher performance. Our teacher evaluation will allow us to promote and reward those teachers who are effective and to remove those who are not.
5) Lower Teacher/Student Ratio: Each four-person teacher team works with a group of 60-65 students. A 15:1 teacher student ratio has been shown to increase student achievement .3-.45 standard deviation per year in grades K-210 and allows for more personalized attention for every student. By flattening our organizational structure and by redistributing external resources to the classroom we are able to have four fully licensed teachers per team.
6) Embedded Master Teacher: Each four-person team includes a Master Teacher. Earning $120,000, these highly skilled professionals provide support to all students in their classroom and serve as mentors to the three other members of their team. Master Teachers provide minute-to- minute coaching, support, and feedback and ensure best practice and appropriate rigor. Integral members of each team, they are in the classroom all day, every day. In addition to raising the quality of instruction team-wide, an embedded Master Teacher also ensures that inexperienced teachers are never left alone to “sink or swim” at the expense of student learning.
7) Five Week Summer Training Program: Our five-week summer training program begins with a week-long seminar at Harvard. Created in collaboration with Professors’ Barry Jentz, Katherine Boles and Eileen McGowan of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and Professor Baruch Bush of Hofstra University, this seminar goes beyond standard professional development to focus on in-depth communication, reflection, and listening skills. Critical for any team-based environment, these skills enable our teacher-teams to maximize their collective potential and to avoid the interpersonal pitfalls and misunderstandings that often hamper collaborative efforts. These skills are then practiced throughout the next four weeks as teams create their curriculum maps, management systems, and curricula for the school year. Our five-week summer training program forms the foundation for our professional development program that continues throughout the year. While newly formed teams will participate in the entire five-week program, returning teams participate in two weeks of summer training and in an annual school-wide curriculum planning week that takes place at the end of each school year.
8) Six-Step Hiring Process: Effective hiring and retention is the foundation of organizational well- being. The TNAA six step hiring process includes a written application, phone interview, group unit building activity, panel interview, reference checks, and demo lesson. As candidates progress through this process they are observed and assessed by parents, teachers, and administrators. This ensures that the candidates who are selected have been vetted multiple times and are a good fit for the school community. The first TNAA school (P.S. 770) selected 8 teachers out of 125 candidates in its first year, and 4 teachers out of approximately 65 candidates in the two subsequent years.
The added autonomy afforded to TNAACS as a charter school also allow us to implement some of the lessons learned applying the model at PS 770. These include:
1) More instructional time: More time leads to more learning. TNAACS students have an additional 10% of instructional time each day. This added time represents over three weeks of extra instruction each year.
2) More professional development time: Teacher development leads to higher quality instruction and greater student achievement. In total, TNAACS provides 629 hours of formal professional development each year.
While each of these elements has been individually proven to increase student achievement, together their effect is compounded. By creating a professional team-based environment with ongoing mentorship, feedback, peer review, and support, TNAACS enables its teachers to dramatically increase the efficacy of their instruction. This will, in turn, lead to deeper learning and greater student achievement.