Teachers: Take your bribe, settle down

The State Board of Education recently sent out an open letter to Idaho’s educators regarding the new Tiered Teacher Certification proposal.

The letter bluntly admits that Idaho’s teachers aren’t compensated anywhere near where they should be (true), but then argues that the only way Idaho legislators would find a raise to be palatable is to move to a tiered teacher certification system (false).

A few things to point out here: A tiered certification system is a completely separate topic than teacher compensation. The attempt to conflate the two different items as being one and the same is deceptive, at worst, and misleading, at best.

The attempt to combine the two separate issues into the same topic implies that the only way an Idaho educator could ever expect a raise is to sell out into a tiered certification system, which simply is not the only way forward in a discussion of teacher compensation.

Here’s the rub: Teachers in Idaho desperately need a raise. Nobody, including the task-force members and the Board of Ed, disputes this. However, by tying compensation to certification a teacher is handing over many protections, due process, and compensation that was previously guaranteed.

We’re not talking small potatoes here either. According to the open letter the proposed changes would help catch Idaho up to neighboring states in terms of compensation.

  • $40,000 for beginning teachers (up from the current $31,750)
  • $47,000 to $51,000 for teachers who hold a professional certificate
  • $54,000 to $58,000 for teachers who qualify for a master designation (up from the current maximum of $47,000)

Yet, here’s the catch: A teacher loses many protections for this bribe. Some of these protections should be especially concerning to instructors who work with minority student populations such as special education, English Language Learner, and alternative/academy school students.

See, the new legislation ties standardized test scores (SBAC / ISAT 2.0) to a teacher’s evaluation, compensation, and certification. That is alarming because instructors working with these minority student populations are likely to be behind typical peers in academic proficiency.

However, the draft proposal doesn’t make any exceptions for instructors choosing to work with these populations of students such as special education teachers and English Language Learner teachers. Why would a teacher want to work with these populations of students, which are unlikely to score “proficient” on a standardized assessment, if the standardized assessment score is tied to their evaluation, compensation, and certification?

These are our most challenging students. We should be creating incentives for our best teachers to work with these groups of students; however, this proposal does the opposite because it scares an instructor from working with these groups when they know a standardized score from students who are unlikely to demonstrate proficiency on the assessment will be tied to their livelihood.

So here’s the deal, and it’s one that is tempting to swallow: Teachers in Idaho, you are being bribed to give up rights that you are entitled now in order to receive a rise in your compensation. It is tempting.

However, we need to do what is best for students. How will tying standardized test data to a special education teacher’s certificate employment improve their learning? Ditto English Language Learner instructors.

My crystal ball sees the most talented instructors fleeing from our neediest students, or perhaps even out of our great Gem State, due to the fear of losing compensation and certification status by making a decision to work with students unlikely to demonstrate proficient standardized test scores.

That is not ok. Our students deserve better.

Please make yourself heard.

Please note, all meetings will be held at 7PM.

  • Tuesday, Oct. 7 Pocatello ISU Student Union-Salmon River Room
  • Tuesday, Oct. 14 Lewiston LCSC, Meriwether Lewis Hall Room 100
  • Tuesday, Oct. 21 Nampa CWI, Nampa Micron Center for PTE Classrooms 1710 A/B

If you cannot make the meeting in person, please write the Board of Ed at [email protected]

How will this improve student learning? Why would instructors want to work with populations not likely to produce proficient scores like SpEd and ELL?

Levi B Cavener is a special education teacher in Caldwell. He also runs the nonprofit Idahospromise.org