In 2013, TNTP decided to consolidate its network of Teaching Fellows programs under a national brand umbrella: TNTP Teaching Fellows. At the same time, it was essential to retain each program’s “local flavor.” The result: a new TNTPTeachingFellows.org identity and website.
As the primary platform to recruit Teaching Fellows candidates, a key priority was distinguishing the program from the field of organizations competing for the same talent, including traditional universities and alternate route programs like Teach For America. We approached this challenge by building our brand around a central premise: We don’t train teachers — we train GREAT teachers.
Our campaign, “What Will You Teach?” highlighted the power of amazing teaching and the fullness of its impact, emphasizing that our training would prepare teachers to put children on a path to academic success while also equipping them with key skills for success in life: resilience, curiosity, creativity, pride.
We built a unique, but aligned brand identity for each of our local programs, retaining the equity in their existing names and logos, but drawing on the overarching strategy to convey that they were all part of the family.
One of my biggest contributions at TNTP was overseeing communications around the Assessment of Classroom Effectiveness (ACE). ACE is a pioneering initiative requiring that educators trained through the organization’s Teaching Fellows program demonstrate meaningful results in the classroom in order to earn certification.
Teachers who make a strong start are more likely to remain successful over their careers. Yet most schools and preparation programs pay little attention to actual classroom performance. In setting out to change that, TNTP was committed to transparency — making sure that Fellows had a clear understanding of its expectations and that they always knew exactly where they stood and the steps required to meet that bar.
While introduction of ACE was not without hiccups, our communications strategy minimized negative fallout and sent a consistent message that ACE certification would stand as a badge of excellence — principals and district officials would know that Fellows were not merely certified teachers, but that they had a proven record of success. We also emphasized that the feedback, coaching, and support Fellows received as part of ACE would help them meet their ambition to become an outstanding educator for the students who need great teachers most. Thanks to our carefully executed strategy, participants overwhelmingly rated ACE as fair at the end of the first year, with particularly strong marks for communications. Far from a liability, ACE actually became a selling point when recruiting candidates for TNTP Teaching Fellows programs in later years.
Our experience implementing ACE was captured in Leap Year, a report mapping out how other teacher training programs could better support early career teachers and ensure that the privilege of a career in the classroom was reserved for highly capable educators. I also contributed to a companion report, Fast Start, which shared actionable lessons from TNTP’s teacher training model.