State Board OKs plan for master teacher premiums


Idaho educators won’t be eligible to receive master teacher premiums until 2019, but the State Board of Education adopted the ground rules for the program Thursday.

The board unanimously approved a plan that will allow teachers to submit a “portfolio” that makes their case for the premiums, which could total $4,000 a year for three years.

The portfolio plan is the result of a process of elimination of sorts. The committee that wrote up the guidelines decided against using student achievement metrics, or forcing superintendents and principals to make the call.

Student achievement measurements can be “extremely complicated,” said Mark Jones, principal at Boise’s Adams Elementary School and chairman of the committee that crafted the master teacher premium plan. Putting administrators in charge could create its own complications, by putting management in the unusual and uncomfortable role of parceling out bonuses.

“Relationships in a school are everything,” Jones said.

Under the portfolio plan, applications will be peer-reviewed by fellow teachers. Applicants’ names will be blacked out. In the peer review process, applicants will be graded on several criteria, such as leadership, professional growth and classroom learning environment.

The master teacher premium stems from 2015, and the career ladder law to boost teacher salaries. But now is the time for teachers to make sure they qualify for a premium. Eligible teachers must have at least eight years’ experience — and they must work in the classroom for three consecutive school years leading up to applying. Applicants also need to meet mastery and student achievement goals for at least three of the past five school years.

The portfolio — the centerpiece of the master teacher premium plan — is designed to allow teachers to tailor their application. But it’s unclear how many teachers will actually apply.

Robin Nettinga, executive director of the Idaho Education Association
Robin Nettinga, executive director, Idaho Education Association

Idaho Education Association Executive Director Robin Nettinga has heard mixed messages from her membership. Some teachers think the portfolio process will be too time-consuming; other teachers don’t think the application process will be a big deal.

The IEA supports the premium plan, as does the Idaho School Boards Association.

And as the State Board wrapped up two days of meetings in Boise Thursday, members signed on with little debate.

“What we have there is a model that will be modeled by others,” said State Board member Linda Clark, a former West Ada district superintendent who served on Jones’ committee.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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