Education task force may call for expansion of career ladder

A subcommittee of Gov. Brad Little’s education task force began developing three potential recommendations Tuesday.

And two of them will look familiar to anybody who followed former Gov. Butch Otter’s task force six years ago.

Members of the teacher pipeline subcommittee spent most of Tuesday’s meeting narrowing their focus and debating strategies.

After the dust settled, three potential recommendations began to take shape. Those recommendations include:

  • Providing mentoring and job-embedded professional development training that is aligned to student achievement.
  • Expanding and building out the Legislature’s career ladder salary law.
  • Offering optional, extended contracts to educators who agree to work extra time to develop their craft or focus on student achievement.

In 2013, Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education issued 20 reform recommendations that included professional development, mentoring and the career ladder salary system.

Mary Ann Ranells

West Ada Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells said it’s important to expand professional development because many school districts cut five to 10 professional development days during the Great Recession and have yet to add those days back.

“In order to pull it off, you have to add days,” she said. “You have to add some amount of days, which will have a price tag.”

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Members of the teacher pipeline subcommittee say the Legislature didn’t fully build out the career ladder as it was proposed because they did not add a third salary rung that pays out $60,000.

“My largest takeaway from the pipeline report was we are not adequately compensating our veteran educators, and they are leaving,” State Board of Education member Linda Clark said.

Subcommittee members seemed to generally support expanding the career ladder to pay experienced teachers more, but they disagreed over the details. There was considerable debate over the role that teacher evaluations and performance metrics should or should not play in teacher pay. There was also debate over whether to retain the new master educator premium financial bonus system or scrap it and use that funding to build out the career ladder.

Rep. Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls, proposed offering extended contracts (with higher pay) to educators, an idea that came to him at 2 a.m. His idea was to offer them a 20 percent increase over their base salary if they agree to work six weeks during the summer. That work would be unstructured, but teachers could use the time to map out literacy plans, collaborate with other teachers or enrich their own knowledge of the subjects they teach.

“Most teachers want to see a sort of path to financial security in some way,” Marshall said. “Extended contacts will become a sure deal. It can be there every year, as long as you are willing to work you can rely on it.”

Other subcommittee members abruptly pulled the plug on further discussion of Marshall’s idea after he causally proposed eliminating the career ladder and replacing it with his extended contracts idea. The career ladder has enjoyed wide support from school administrators, Little and both education task forces.

Bill Gilbert

“We’re not going to get rid of the career ladder, the governor is absolutely committed to the ladder,” task force co-chairman Bill Gilbert told Marshall.

Former state Sen. Shawn Keough, who ran Tuesday’s subcommittee meeting, asked Marshall and others to spend the next month developing the extended contract proposal. Using a term popular with legislators, Keough suggested Marshal’s proposal may not be “ripe” yet.

At this point, none of the recommendations are final or have been brought to the full “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” task force. But with recommendations due to Little this fall, both the full task force and its subcommittees began kicking things into gear this week.

On Monday, the full task force began developing the basic framework of a new accountability system that would focus on early childhood literacy and be bound by local control.

The full task force is scheduled to meet again Sept. 13 in Pocatello.

The final meeting of the teacher pipeline subcommittee is scheduled for Sept. 19.

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