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Report: Transform teaching by providing career opportunities



With about one-third of all new teachers in the United States leaving the profession within five years, California can stem this loss and improve teacher quality by extending time to train new teachers and providing more opportunities for career growth, a report released last week by Accomplished California Teachers (ACT) concluded.

“Money alone will not transform teaching,” according to ACT. “Higher compensation should be logically tied to new professional roles and greater responsibilities as teachers progress along a career pathway.” ACT was formed in 2008 by a group of highly respected teachers who wanted to use their knowledge to influence public policy. The research was conducted in collaboration with the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE).

"Promoting Quality Teaching: New Approaches to Compensation and Career Pathways" is the second report by Accomplished Teachers of California.

“Promoting Quality Teaching: New Approaches to Compensation and Career Pathways” is the second report by Accomplished California Teachers.

The report, Promoting Quality Teaching: New Approaches to Compensation and Career Pathways, recommends creating a “third tier” that teachers could aspire to – becoming “master teachers” who, for example, could help train and evaluate new or struggling teachers, or redesign curricula to be more relevant for the district or school, while still remaining in the classroom for part of the day. The report defines Tier I teachers as new teachers on probation; Tier II teachers have permanent status and a full credential.

Master or Tier III teachers could take over some of the managerial tasks now done by district personnel, outside consultants, and professional development groups, the report explains. Districts and schools would develop “greater capacity to promote teacher learning with teachers leading the work.”

David Cohen, a 10th grade English teacher in Palo Alto and associate director of ACT, said he pictures including “master teacher” or “Tier III” certification on a teacher’s license, with teachers earning that status receiving more pay. The state, he said, would need to provide a framework and establish a baseline set of requirements for teachers to meet the master teacher criteria. But then, he said, districts would decide, within that framework, what teachers must do to become master teachers in the local district.

“It’s really tricky to find the balance between what the state can do to be helpful and uniform enough so it is institutionalized in a good way and yet flexible enough for tiny districts and gigantic districts to find it useful,” Cohen said.

Lengthening probation beyond two years

The report also recommends potentially extending the probationary period for teachers to up to four years instead of the two years currently required under state law. Under the approach envisioned in the report, first-year teachers would be seen as apprentices under the direction of a master teacher for part of the day. New teachers would spend the rest of the day working on developing lessons, analyzing student work, observing master teachers’ classrooms, and deepening their knowledge of their subject. They would take charge of their classrooms beginning in their second year. Although teachers could progress to Tier II by the end of their second year, it would typically take them three to four years, according to the ACT approach.

California is one of a half-dozen states with a probationary period of two years or less before granting tenure of due-process rights; in most states it is three years or longer, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality. But, Cohen said, in practice many teachers are hired first as “temporary teachers” with a one-year contract before they are put in a tenure-track position.

“A better induction experience is almost like a protection for new teachers,” he said. “Right now the job description for a brand-new teacher on Day 1 is the same as that of a veteran teacher. And sometimes the new teacher is given the most challenging assignments.” The process ACT is suggesting isn’t more difficult for a new teacher; it’s just a longer process.

The ACT report also emphasizes the need to attract high-quality teachers to low-performing schools by not only offering higher pay, but also release time and additional stipends earmarked for ongoing professional development relevant to the needs of the students they teach.

“While it may be tempting to suppose that paying teachers more to work in high-needs schools might attract accomplished teachers, the reality is that teachers want to be successful as much as they want to be compensated for taking on large challenges,” according to the report.

Cohen said the report takes the long view. “We’re not expecting these changes to happen in the next legislative session,” he said. “But the bottom line is there is a lot of talent in the system, and it’s not used in an optimal way.”

However, the report got legs even before it was published. The California Department of Education’s Educator Excellence Task Force included recommendations and resources drawn from the draft ACT report in its report on how to attract and retain quality teachers, Greatness by Design, released this summer.

This is ACT’s second report. The first report, published two years ago, is on teacher evaluation, A Quality Teacher in Every Classroom: An Evaluation System that Works for California. The two reports go hand in hand, Cohen said.

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12 Responses to “Report: Transform teaching by providing career opportunities”

  1. knowledgeseeker said

    on January 13, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Aside from this educational-related issue, I think that the president should also create/plan a program for college students and the fresh graduates – like career advice program to guide the you ones because employment is one of the biggest issues today.

  2. David B. Cohen said

    on November 26, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    I appreciate all the comments and feedback above. Regarding ACT, our members are at a variety of points in their careers. Those contributing to this report were mostly “senior” teachers, but by no means do we seek to set limits on entry into the profession. Our main concern is that we have a profession worth entering, one that doesn’t burn out so many younger teachers, and one that doesn’t drive good, mid-career teachers entirely out of the classroom if/when they have the skills and desire to lead within the profession. Whatever the objections or disagreements, we would love nothing better than to have a robust process for airing every concern, recognizing and overcoming obstacles, and finding the right balance between state mandate and local flexibility to improve teaching statewide.

    Regarding induction, we’re aiming for broad principles and wouldn’t want to see the broad ideas neglected because someone wants to pick apart the finer points. The suggestion of three years is intended to provide more time for better, and sure, differentiated induction. If we can accomplish the goals in less time, we have no firm commitment to the number three. In teaching, we have a “gradual release” model for moving students towards independent and proficient practices, and maybe that could be accomplished in two years, maybe not. Maybe the first year would be something closer to an internship than a full-time teaching job, and the second and third year would more nearly resemble the current first and second years. The bottom line for us is to improve the systems in a cohesive way: teacher training linked to teacher induction linked to evaluation linked to differentiated career pathways.

    Yes, under current law, there are issues regarding certification and portability, but that doesn’t mean that laws can’t change. New Mexico has figured out a way for the state and the LEAs to collaborate on the certification of Tier III teachers. Additionally, we do not argue that achieving that level in the profession automatically confers the skills necessary to conduct evaluation or other administrative roles, but we do believe that teacher evaluation would be improved if more of it were conducted by trained peers who are themselves acknowledged for their teaching skills. Any new roles and responsibilities require ongoing training and professional development, just as we need for teachers, administrators, and practitioners in any other profession.

  3. Dr. Craig A. Mertler said

    on November 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    This is really great stuff! I’ve been trying for several years to promote these ideas of true teacher leadership. My focus has been on providing teachers with the skills and experiences that will enable them to become empowered educator, lead school change efforts, enhance the profession — all while remaining in the classroom, at least on a part-time basis. My personal focus has been on the integration of action research as a means of facilitating school improvement, improving student achievement, and customizing teachers’ professional development. If anyone is interested in reading more about my ideas please check out my blog: http://www.craigmertler.com/blog

  4. el said

    on November 20, 2012 at 11:58 am

    The two year probationary period seems to me to be just right. It’s long enough for someone to be evaluated and have a chance to develop and grow on the job, but not so long that the administration loses track of who is probationary or that kids are stuck with a teacher that isn’t going to work out for too long. At two years, the new teachers stay at top of mind and top of the to-do list for mentoring and evaluation.

    • navigio replied

      on November 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      It might depend on how many probationary teachers there are. I expect currently, there are much fewer than there have been in the past given our layoff patterns. I expect in 5 years there will be MANY more.
      2 years would probably also be sufficient if those years were used effectively to evaluate the teacher. I know in some cases the first year is often simply ignored because the thought is that it takes a year for the person to get into the groove (obviously this is something that would differ by district). I saw a study a while back that said LAUSD doesnt evaluate all its probationary teachers every year. I hope it does every one at least once before giving them permanent status, especially given that they evaluate less than half of ‘tenured’ teachers every year.

      • el replied

        on November 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm

        Have I mentioned that I think LAUSD is too large? :-)

        The real problem in the cases you’re alluding to is that some schools find themselves awash in new teachers without supervision. IMHO, this is a significant problem in and of itself and it should be solved by ensuring that every site has enough experienced and/or administrative staff to oversee its new hires. The solution is not to let new hires run amok for an extra year or two or three until someone can get around to noticing them. :-)

  5. cheesemonkeysf said

    on November 20, 2012 at 6:32 am

    ACT and this report misses an essential point. We don’t need LONGER induction — we need DIFFERENTIATED induction. The current process treats everyone from former professors to 22-year-olds exactly the same. If we believe our own talk about the importance of differentiation, then we need to consider differing needs of different incoming populations.

  6. Paul said

    on November 20, 2012 at 1:44 am

    How soon we forget! The probationary period in California used to be three years long. Teachers won a reduction from three years to two, but employers won the right to dismiss probationary teachers without cause.

    This proposal to increase the probationary period makes no sense.

    1. It mandates a limited first-year assignment, which would be difficult for employers to implement. Why would a school district want to hire a first-year teacher if arbitrary limits were placed on the teacher’s service?

    2. It confounds the authority of local employing agencies with the authority of the state. Employers grant permanent status — “tenure”, which for teachers means due process dismissal rights. This is a local decision, and permanent status is not portable. The state grants a clear credential — one that can be renewed every five years, for the length of the teacher’s life. This is of course portable. Speaking of clear (“Tier II”) credential requirements, ACT says, “Different schools and districts might require teachers to submit different evidence based on the unique challenges of each school.” Why should local agencies set the rules for statewide credentials?

    3. It places teachers in roles for which they are not qualified. Under this proposal, a Tier III teacher may serve as an evaluator, with influence over compensation and dismissal decisions. National Board Certification — the gateway to Tier III — is great, but it does not include any training in personnel management. Only holders of administrative services credentials are guaranteed to have received such training. (I am not a big fan of credentials. The holder of an MBA, or of a degree in human resource management, might also be competent to evaluate teachers. But clearly, most teachers do not possess such training.)

    4. It is incompatible with the internship pathway. A teacher who earned his credential through the internship pathway has already served as a paid teacher of record. Under this proposal, the person would be demoted from teacher of record to apprentice in his second or third year of service!

    My impression of Accomplished California Teachers (ACT) is that it’s a group of high-seniority teachers who want to protect their status and their pay by limiting entry to the profession.

  7. john mockler said

    on November 19, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Susan well all interesting stuff but—–the citation on those who leave the profession within 5 years was not given. And the fact that we laid off 30,000 teachers in California alone due to financial crisis is not the cause of education policy. Really EdSource needs a bit more clarity and accuracy.

    • John Fensterwald replied

      on November 20, 2012 at 12:46 am

      John: The data on teachers leaving the profession within five years is cited in the ACT report.

      • edfundwonk replied

        on November 26, 2012 at 3:06 pm

        Does the ACT report cite a source? The only legitimate (i.e., original analysis of California-specific data) paper that I ever read on this issue was written many years ago by a researcher at the CTC. (I probably have it around here somewhere.) In any event, the upshot was that the actual teacher dropout rate was considerably less than the “1/3 in the first five years” so often asserted. I think this may be a case of “if something is repeated often enough, it becomes a fact.”

  8. Richard Moore (@infosherpa) said

    on November 19, 2012 at 10:44 am

    you wrote:

    >>> With about one-third of all new teachers in the United States leaving the profession within five years,…

    Isn’t it wonderful when no editor ever asks for context? You can just make these statements and pretend that they have meaning.

    But what about engineers? Nurses? Plumbers? Doctors? Lawyers? What is the fraction who drop out of the profession after five years? You don’t know? Then what on earth is the statement doing in your essay? Context matters.

    And when did it become the job of high school to prepare kids for careers? The purpose of high school is to provide a high school education. The purpose of college is to provide a college education. Companies have stopped training new employees and want schools to pickup the slack. If a company wants machine tool operators, set up or support that kind of school — like UTI does for the automotive trade in Phoenix and other towns.

    Or you can whine to your “leaders” that the schools aren’t prepping employees for you to hire…

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