It’s a master mystery for Idaho teachers

If you are a teacher who feels a little lost about the Master Teacher Premium — which is now also apparently being referred to as the Master Educator Premium — don’t feel bad. The Legislature is equally lost in the program of its own making.

A survivor of the shipwrecked tiered licensure, the master teacher premium was hatched as a way to get some educators closer to the original $60,000 salary goal line after the Legislature capped the career ladder salary allocation short at just $50,000. When implemented in 2019, qualifying teachers will receive an additional $4,000 per year for three years.

Levi Cavener
Levi Cavener

Some problems: the rubric which will be used to assess which teachers are Jedi quality and which are still padawans has not been developed. Teachers will be required to submit a portfolio of artifacts covering at least three of the previous five school years, but the evaluation tool and process to evaluate selected evidence to determine the superhero variety of teachers from their sidekick colleagues has not yet been determined.

Because, as teachers know, best practice is to assign work to students by only giving them a vague idea about what is expected. Make sure to avoid generating a rubric prior to giving the assignment. When asked by students for an assessment tool that is little more specific, best practice is to shrug and let students know a rubric should be available in the next year or two. Hopefully. Foolproof pedagogy!

Keep in mind that the Legislature really has no idea this test of teacher awesomeness is going to cost the state. Sen Steven Thayn went so far as to call the plan a “house of straw” that has a shaky financial foundation at best.

Idaho Ed News reported the State Department of Education estimating that only a shockingly small 10 percent of Idaho teachers will apply. Keep in mind that doesn’t mean the SDE believes 10 percent of Idaho teachers will be awarded the distinction, only that 10 percent will submit the paperwork.

Is the connotation of that estimate taken to mean that Idaho’s State Department of Education believes that, at best, only 1 in 10 of Idaho educators are masters in their craft?

Sen. Thayn’s critique is legitimate. Suppose that 50 percent of Idaho teachers meet the eligibility criteria. Further suppose that only half of those eligible teachers apply. That leaves 25 percent of Idaho’s teachers submitting applications.

That plausible scenario would result in a whopping 250 percent applicant increase in comparison to the SDE’s projection. Is the Legislature ready to put its money where its mouth is, particularly if awardee numbers come in significantly over the current conservative projection?

Will the legislation be tweaked to include a quota? You know, because the state only has so much money — err space — for awesome teachers?

Also consider the cost of the folks actually performing the evaluation of the portfolios as well. What criteria will be used in determine who is fit to judge teacher awesomeness? It is doubtful qualified evaluators will work for free.

The larger the laundry list of demands to be included in the portfolio means the larger the workload — and elevated cost — of assessing padawans from their Jedi colleagues. And what happens when a teacher doesn’t receive their black belt? What will be their recourse? A suit in our courts that further taxes the state?

Don’t stress though teachers. None of us are Jedi masters yet. Who knows what will happen between now and 2019 when the awards are delivered. As Master Yoda tells us, “patience you must have.”

Written by Levi B. Cavener, a special education teacher in Caldwell. He blogs at IdahosPromise.Org