Eric Christopher is the kind of young, gifted, committed teacher that any principal would want to hire.
A straight-A student from a public high school on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, he gave up a chance for an Ivy League education to take care of his sick mother and attend nearby Washington College, from which he graduated magna cum laude in 2006.
Several did, but one in particular impressed Christopher.
His name was Eric Bethel, principal of Turner Elementary School, located in one of the city’s poorest southeastern neighborhoods, seven miles and a world away from the White House.
And despite intense competition from charter schools, its enrollment is up 32 percent since Bethel’s arrival, to 520 students.
But as Christopher spent time on the DCPS website, he saw opportunities for high-performing teachers to become instructional coaches—just what he was looking for.
He applied, and was surprised by the rigor of the hiring process—much tougher than what he had experienced in previous teaching jobs.
He spent the next seven years at a public elementary school near his hometown, teaching the Spanish-speaking children of agricultural and poultry workers while earning a master’s degree in bilingual education.
But opportunities to advance were mostly based on teacher seniority, the pay was low, and he was eager for a fresh challenge in a new environment. students were enrolled in charters in 2013, up from less than 15 percent a decade earlier.
Turner’s nascent resurgence reflects progress in the DCPS system as a whole.