Most D.C. charter schools pay teachers less the traditional school system, but minimum and maximum salaries do not tell the whole story. The starting-salary data for some charters include relatively low-paid teachers-in-training, who work alongside a mentor, gradually taking on more responsibility as the year progresses.
AppleTree Early Learning, for example, a well-regarded charter with seven campuses for preschool and kindergarten students, staffs every classroom with three adults: a teaching assistant, whose salary began at $21,000 in 2011-12; a teacher-in-training, or fellow, whose salary began at $32,000; and an experienced lead teacher, whose salary began at $43,000.
The school retained 77 percent of its fellows this year but only 38 percent of its lead teachers.
Some of the departing teachers moved out of the area or went on to graduate school, while others jumped to higher-paying positions at traditional public schools in the District, said Jack McCarthy, AppleTree’s executive director.
“Rather than lament that, that’s a way in which we’re having a positive impact on the quality of teaching in early education,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said teaching candidates are drawn to AppleTree in part because of its affiliation with a nonprofit organization that works to develop effective instruction for young children. The school offers extensive professional development worth tens of thousands of dollars each year, he said, and training teachers is a key part of its mission.
Teacher training is also part of the mission at Inspired Teaching Demonstration School, where teaching residents earn $25,000 while simultaneously earning graduate credits.
Residents then are placed in other D.C. schools, or they might be hired at Inspired Teaching, where starting pay for experienced teachers is $50,000.
Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School also employs teachers-in-training, who began at $30,000 in 2011-12. Lead teachers began at $45,000, with a salary schedule patterned loosely on Fairfax County’s. Maximum pay in 2011-12 was $56,000, a figure school officials say should increase with time, as the school matures.
The District’s traditional school system has its own way of providing teachers who are new to the job alternative routes into the classroom, including Teach for America and D.C. Teaching Fellows.
Those new teachers usually have the same responsibilities as a more seasoned teachers, and they earn the same starting salary as a new D.C. public schools teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no experience: $51,539.