State Board approves dozens of additional master educator premiums

The State Board of Education has approved additional financial bonuses for dozens of teachers, thanks to an appeals process tied to Idaho’s master educator premium program.

Nearly 200 teachers were denied premiums last fall, after the State Board considered around 1,400 applicants, each hoping to receive a $4,000 bonus.

During the appeals process, officials reconsidered 109 applications and approved 83, State Board spokesman Mike Keckler told EdNews.

All 83 educators will receive the full $4,000 financial incentive this year. Created by the Legislature, the master educator premium program sought to reward Idaho’s highest performing veteran teachers.

Teachers who meet the criteria can have their premiums renewed for three years, bringing the total to $12,000.

Final numbers show the state approved about 94 percent of all applications. The state considered 1,397 applications and approved 1,307, Keckler said.

The State Board considered two types of appeals, chief planning and policy officer Tracie Bent said. In most cases, teachers appealed reviewers’ initial decisions. In the other case, state officials discovered an Idaho System for Educational Excellence database reporting error that incorrectly disqualified about a dozen applications, even though the teachers met the service requirement of eight years of teaching experience.

In order to earn a premium, teachers had to meet basic eligibility requirements and submit a detailed portfolio demonstrating teaching mastery. Some 260 state-trained portfolio reviewers, including teachers, evaluated the portfolios. At least two different reviewers evaluated each portfolio, Keckler said. If evaluators disagreed, a third reviewer provided an evaluation.

Awarding the premiums was based on two reviewers scoring a portfolio high enough to earn a premium.

“It’s not as simple of a process as dealing with just hard numbers,” Bent said.

The conclusion of the appeals process appears to close the book on the first year of the premiums.

The process was sometimes awkward and delayed.

Several educators said the portfolio application requirement was too burdensome and often took 80 to 120 hours to complete.

Boise business leader Bill Gilbert, who co-chairs Gov. Brad Little’s K-12 education task force, questioned the program during hearings this summer. High-performing organizations would not require their best employees to jump through hoops to earn a bonus, Gilbert said.

Several of Idaho’s most decorated teachers also did not apply for the premiums, including 2019 Teacher of the Year Marc Beitia and Sonia Galaviz, who teaches at Boise’s Garfield Elementary and won the National Education Association’s Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence in 2017.

The Legislature approved $7.2 million for the first year of the bonuses. Approving 83 additional premiums adds $322,000 to the cost, bringing the total to about $5.2 million. Additionally, the state will pay evaluators $100 for each portfolio reviewed during the appeals process. Evaluators earned $50 per review during the original review. Keckler said the state doubled the stipend during the appeals window because evaluators faced a much tighter deadline and an additional assignment to provide the reasoning and justification for each rating.

State Board officials have apologized for some of the errors and glitches throughout the rollout, and Keckler said they will use lessons from this experience to make a better, smoother process next year.


Clark Corbin

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