Mail September 6, 2017 

There are only 374 great teachers in the Gem State

The Idaho State Board of Education finally released its recommendations for determining Jedi-quality master teachers last month. The report concludes only 374 teachers in Idaho will qualify for the Master Educator distinction out of an eligible pool of 18,710 educators.

This outcome seems to be an outright contradiction to the original intention of establishing a master teacher program, which was designed to push many veteran educators closer to the original top salary level proposed during the tiered licensure debate. In fact, the requirements to receive the Jedi distinction from Padawan colleagues are so onerous that the truly excellent teachers will likely spend their already-strapped time on their classrooms instead of completing yet another pile of paperwork mandated by the state.

The report issued by the State Board of Ed requires educators seeking their black-belts to develop comprehensive portfolios that include artifacts, narratives explaining each artifact and tedious explanations of how each artifact is tied to a plethora of categories in the evaluation rubric.

In fact, the framework supplied by the state from the portfolio cover page to the rubric for the last standard is an overwhelming 26 pages all by itself. That is 26 blank pages already without the teacher's artifacts, write up of each artifact, narrative of how each artifact ties to specific standards, etc. Teacher portfolios will resemble the bricks of paper known as closing documents when purchasing a home by the time they are completed.

This completely defeats the point. The purpose of the master educator program was to reward teachers for the excellent work many educators are already doing in the state. It was not designed to punish educators who already put every spare moment of their time into their classrooms. The application process, however, wants another pound of flesh from teachers already worked to the bone.

The payout for countless hours putting together the comprehensive portfolio an educator might be eligible to receive after investing significant time better utilized in professional development or curriculum planning? $4,000.

That's not an insignificant sum, but it's not a guaranteed payout, either. For educators looking to increase their compensation, it is much more likely they will take a summer or part-time gig of guaranteed wages rather than tempt fate with mountains of paperwork for a check they might be found eligible to receive.

Most teachers I talk to about the criteria are so frustrated and angry about the significant requirements, they have already stated their intention to not develop a portfolio or apply for the distinction. That, unfortunately, includes the bulk of educators I would call Jedi Master quality teachers.

It appears the intent in developing this onerous process was precisely to deter eligible candidates from applying. Out of an eligible pool of 18,710 candidates, the report forecasts just 374 educators—or an astonishingly small 2 percent—will qualify for this distinction. That small number comes from a deliberate calculation to make the process so overwhelming as to hang up a sign that reads "need not apply" for the bulk of Idaho teachers.

So, congratulations educators in Idaho. The State Board thinks only 2 percent of you are excellent enough to receive your Jedi distinction. Clearly, this is yet another reason why qualified talent is moving in droves to teach the children in the Gem State.

Oh wait...

Levi B. Cavener

Levi B. Cavener is a special education teacher living in Caldwell, Idaho. He blogs at IdahosPromise.Org

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