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Only a few great teachers?

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

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

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 is so onerous that the truly excellent teachers will likely spend their already strapped time on their classroom instead of completing yet another pile of paperwork mandated by the state.

The report issued by the State Board of Ed requires that educators seeking their black-belt to develop a comprehensive portfolio which includes artifacts, a narrative 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, writeup 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.

Which completely defeats the point. The purpose of this master educator program was to reward teachers for the excellent work many educators are already performing in the state. It was not designed to punitively 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 that an educator might be eligible to receive after investing significant time that would have been better utilized in professional development or curriculum planning? $4,000.

That’s not an insignificant sum. But it’s not a guaranteed payout either. And 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 tempting fate with mountains of paperwork for a check that they might be found eligible for.

Most teachers I talk to about the criteria are so frustrated and angry about the significant requirements that 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 truly call Jedi Master quality teachers.

It appears that the intent in developing this onerous process was precisely to deter eligible candidates from applying. Out of an eligible pool 18,710 candidates the report forecasts that just 374 educators, or an astonishingly small 2% of the population, will qualify for this distinction. That shockingly 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’s teachers.

So congratulations educators in Idaho. The State Board thinks that only 2% 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…

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