How IDEA Public Schools is Creating the Best for Their Scholars

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Teacher in classroom at IDEA Schools

The path to real change starts with our principals and teachers. IDEA Public Schools is making an impact in low-income communities throughout Texas and Louisiana. We educate nearly 53,000 students in 96 schools, and for 13 years, 100% of our seniors have been accepted to college. By 2022, IDEA will grow to 100,000 college-bound students in more than 200 schools nationwide. With grand expansion on the horizon to regions such as Houston, Tampa Bay, and the Permian Basin, we know recruiting and mentoring great principals and teachers is a catalyst to the success of our schools and students.  

IDEA’s Principal-in-Residence Program

IDEA’s Principal-in-Residence (PIR) Program is a unique program that offers unparalleled coaching, mentorship, and professional development for our future IDEA campus principals. Fellows of the PIR Program receive world-class leadership coaching from their mentor Principal, IDEA's Director of Leader Development, and their fellow PIR cohort.

Our PIR Program experience is an essential step toward becoming an IDEA Principal. The residency is a full-time, competitive-salaried, intensive learning opportunity that allows participants to develop the most critical principal knowledge, skills, and mindsets from our organization’s most successful school leaders. In the PIR Program, fellows are a fundamental part of the school’s leadership team and assume significant on-campus management responsibilities.

Upon successful completion of the program, PIRs will be prepared to serve as the principal of an IDEA school, located in one of our seven regions: The Rio Grande Valley, Austin, San Antonio, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Tarrant County, or El Paso.

IDEA Public Schools never underestimates the power of great coaching. PIRs receive extensive “in the field” training while being mentored by expert leaders in the organization. Leaders are not mere observational learners, but rather core members of the “Lead Team” at their school site, alongside the Principal, Assistant Principals of Instruction and Operations, and Counselors. PIRs interact with teachers, leaders, students, and families every single day.

One way our PIRs receive coaching is through Edthena, an interactive video platform that makes our coaches’ time more efficient. By having campus leaders record and upload videos, our coaches can give feedback on the most essential teaching interaction without needing to drive to the campus site to observe the exact time that the interaction is taking place.  It has also allowed us to build video archives of great coaching conversations, so we can refer to them in our training and development.

While serving on a campus lead team, fellows actively engage with the PIR curriculum. This curriculum centers around an Individualized Learning Plan that guides development on eight very specific “School Leadership Levers.” Each PIR works with a mentor principal and a leadership coach. This core team collaborates to ensure that each PIR is progressing on the levers related to weekly goals. IDEA expertly matches PIRs with mentor principals and residency campuses to ensure that each PIR is placed in a school where they have the most opportunity to grow and develop.

The PIR Program is designed to prepare PIRs to run a new or existing IDEA school within two to three years. The decision to promote a PIR into the principal role is primarily based on each PIR’s progress on their individualized development plan, while also taking into account the demands of IDEA school expansion and vacancy timelines.

Teacher Career Pathway

The Teacher Career Pathway (TCP) is a differentiated reward, recognition, and retention program for teachers at IDEA Public Schools. The TCP program synthesizes multiple components of a teacher’s performance in order to place him or her on a five-tier pathway. Each level on this pathway has its own set of supports, rewards, and recognitions, with Master Teacher being the ultimate goal. The program was developed as a result of extensive research, two years of piloting, and feedback from IDEA’s Teacher Advisory Council. Now in its fifth year, the TCP continues to evolve, thanks to the candid and thoughtful feedback of IDEA teachers.

For teachers, the TCP means that it is possible to choose to continue teaching without sacrificing the opportunities usually associated with a move out of the classroom. Like those who advance their careers in other fields, teachers who move up on TCP enjoy higher pay and opportunities to drive their own development. They experience recognition for their results and receive support to continue their impact by teaching.

The TCP and its accompanying rubrics, evaluation criteria, and reward system are inspired by similar programs from various charter networks across the country. However, IDEA’s TCP has some unique features:

  • Transparent, published rubrics for student achievement metrics
  • Full inclusion of elective teachers and teachers of courses without state tests
  • Retention bonuses that build over time for High-Performing, Advanced, and Master Teachers

IDEA teachers are motivated to stay in the classroom for many reasons, including the TCP reward system. By offering a “menu” of incentive options, the TCP avoids being a one-size-fits-all reward program. In this way, each individual teacher can more effectively be recognized. The menu of incentives is built around four factors found to be primary motivators for encouraging teachers to stay in the classroom. These motivators are:

  • Influence
  • Differentiated professional growth
  • Public recognition
  • Compensation

IDEA Public Schools knows closing the achievement gap is a task that requires compassionate leaders who want to make a difference for students. We know our vision of College For All Children is possible, but not without individuals who want to make a positive change in education.


Melissa Scheinfeld is the senior vice president for talent development and Judy Touzin is the managing director of leader development at IDEA Public Schools.


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