State Board: No limit on master teacher premiums

State Board of Education officials emphasized this week that there is no hard cap on the number of teachers who will earn new salary bonuses.

Known officially as master educator premiums, the bonuses are designed to complement the career ladder salary law by rewarding Idaho’s most experienced and accomplished educators.

Earlier this week — in one of the most-read posts published on Idaho EdNews this year — Caldwell special education teacher Levi Cavener wrote an opinion piece suggesting the state issued a report limiting the number of teachers who would qualify for the bonuses at 374.

While Cavener is correct that the state set a high bar for the bonuses and not all teachers will qualify, there is no limit, State Board chief planning and policy officer Tracie Bent said.

“Any eligible teacher whose portfolio is reviewed and is (qualified) based on the rubric, they will get that premium,” Bent said. “Every single one of them.”

The premiums total $4,000 per year, per recipient. Educators will receive the bonus for three consecutive years after they are initially selected. After those three years, educators may re-apply annually.

Cavener is also right that there is a high bar for receiving the bonuses, and  educators will have to put work in to apply. Educators must have at least eight years’ experience and submit a portfolio demonstrating mastery of the teaching profession in five areas: leadership, professional growth, content, instruction and assessment.

“What it is is a mechanism in which teachers can show that they are those high-performing teachers,” Bent said. “Rather than rely on standardized assessment, educators will develop and put forth a portfolio where they have picked the evidence they think is most compelling.”

Committees of Idaho teachers, administrators and school trustees developed the master educator premiums and the eligibility rubric based on similar initiatives in other states, State Board spokesman Blake Youde said. Idaho’s committee looked, in particular, at Ohio, because its master teacher premium program has been on the books the longest and has yielded the most usable data. In Ohio, 2 percent of teachers qualified for premiums. Applying that percentage to Idaho produces an estimate of 374 eligible teachers — the number Cavener uses in his guest opinion.

However, education leaders don’t know how many Idaho teachers will earn the bonus, since the program remains under development. State Board officials have used estimates ranging from 2 percent to 10 percent to 25 percent.

“We’re not behaving as if we are beholden to a percentage,” Youde said.

The Legislature created the master educator premium as part of the 2015 career ladder law. Earlier this year, lawmakers expanded the program to include pupil services staffers such as counselors, audiologists, nurses and social workers.

State officials will award the first round of premiums during the 2019-20 school year, so state lawmakers must fund the bonuses in the 2019 budget.

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From Idaho EdNews reporter Devin Bodkin, detailed coverage of the State Board vote to approve master educator premium guidelines.

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