September 17, 2009

YES Prep: Providing Every Student with Consistently Excellent Teaching

This case study explores the “nuts and bolts” of how YES Prep Public Schools, a charter organization based in Houston, Texas, succeeds in preparing low-income students not only to graduate from high school, but also to enter college ready to meet the challenges of a post-secondary education.

Our responsibilities never end, and that’s the same for our teachers.  They are always trying to do whatever it takes for us to get to college. (Mirna, Junior)

Founded by a small group of driven teachers dedicated to doing “whatever it takes” to guarantee student success, YES Prep used to be able to get away with what Chris Barbic describes as “everybody winging it and doing it their own way.” That approach worked for a few years, but when YES Prep’s leaders decided to grow the organization, and teachers started burning out, they realized that they needed to figure out a more sustainable way to work. The goal was clear, as Chief People and Program Officer Jennifer Hines explains: “We want to ensure that no matter what campus a YES Prep student attends, every single YES Prep student is held to the same really ambitious standards for achievement and has teachers capable of giving them the support they need to get there.”

To that end, YES Prep’s leaders have invested time and resources in identifying and defining what makes for great teaching within the YES Prep model. And they've developed systems to scale those elements to every classroom at every campus. Moreover, YES Prep is committed to an ongoing process of continuous analysis and improvement. By measuring progress against student results, YES Prep has developed and refined academic and cultural standards. These standards are supported by a consistent classroom management approach, common assessments, and a transparent performance management framework that drives action in terms of teacher professional development, evaluation, promotions, pay and, where necessary, departures. Ultimately, the standards provide the foundation for a comprehensive, three-pronged approach to hiring, training, supporting, and evaluating teachers:

  • Getting the Right People - Figuring out who is likely to be successful at YES Prep and hiring people who fit the profile
  • Teaching Excellence - Providing the training, support, and feedback necessary to help new teachers meet YES Prep’s standards in their first year
  • Ensuring Accountability for Student Success - Supporting great teaching through clear, documented performance expectations tied to career advancement and compensation

Next: Getting the Right People >> 

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