Opinion Blog


Rick Hess Straight Up

Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

A Classroom Career Ladder for Teachers

By Zachary Champagne — July 12, 2011 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Note: Zak Champagne, an award-winning teacher in Jacksonville, Florida, is guest-posting this week.

First and foremost I am blown away by the amazing and thoughtful remarks in reference to my first post, “Just a Teacher.” (If you haven’t read that post, it will most likely make more sense to read it first.) It is a topic that has perplexed me for quite some time and I am thrilled that it has resonated with so many. Having said that, I definitely left some ambiguity in the last paragraph of my previous post. If it is so simple to fix the “just a teacher” predicament that we have created, then what does it really look like?

I would like to begin by clarifying and qualifying a few things.

1. In essence the answer to the problem is simple...create a classroom career ladder for teachers. Make sure that there are pathways built into the system that would allow teachers to distinguish themselves socially and financially. Make it so we can stay in the classroom and advance, not be pushed out of the classroom.

2. It cannot be one person (or one group) to define what that looks like. We need all the stakeholders at the table--including researchers, policymakers, administrators, and especially teachers--to delineate each path and how teachers would attain different levels.

Having put forth these qualifications, and since many of you asked, I do have a few suggestions for what this ladder could entail. I think a definite step in the right direction would be to create true “mentor” teachers. Master teachers who have a full time classroom of their own who could meet and share best practices with other teachers in their school. There is one VERY important qualification. These mentor teachers must have a full time classroom of their own. This is key for two reasons. The first is simple: if they stay in the classroom, they will have the most direct impact on students. Number two is a bit more contentious: educators that are not in the classroom lose credibility with current classroom teachers because they are not perceived as one of us. I am not saying that this is right or acceptable at all...it is just part of the deal. This mentor teacher would be a current classroom teacher that would be supplemented monetarily and would have some release time during the day to model lessons, meet with teachers, and perhaps work with the leadership at the school to plan professional development. However, there must be some clear and concise criteria that these teachers must meet. I am not sure exactly what it would look like, but these mentor teachers cannot be just average or above average teachers...they would need to be exceptional and would need to be able to demonstrate that.

Another option would be to create pathways for exceptional teachers to spend more time TEACHING! We spend an exorbitant amount of time on things that are not considered teaching. Don’t get me wrong here...I don’t want to sound like I am complaining about bus duty, or lunch duty, or all the tedious paperwork...but the fact is that there are kids that need to be taught during those times and we have got to find a way to get exceptional teachers to them! This path would be one where teachers would need more planning time (which they should be compensated for) and those duties would be relieved by others while this exceptional educator would actually teach.

A third opportunity would be for teachers to become more active in research, policy, and community organizations. These classroom teachers would need networks of others to become fluent in this work. However, it could potentially make an enormous impact by working to clarify the complexity of what actually happens in the classroom, as well as raise the social status of teachers. When we become the experts in and out of the classroom, the “just a teacher” label can begin to be peeled away. As I am sure many of you know, this type of work is currently being done with the New Millennium Initiative with the Center for Teaching Quality. Barnett Berry and company also made a great video that can be found here if you would like some more information. The part that focuses on teachers can be found around the 2:40 minute mark.

I believe a clear ladder to stay “in” the classroom may be one of the most crucial components in continuing to make our students more successful nationally and globally. After all, if we are losing our most dynamic teachers because they feel there are only pathways “out” of the classroom, then how will we continue to teach tomorrow’s students?

--Zak Champagne

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
Professional Development Online Summit What's Next for Professional Development: An Overview for Principals
Join fellow educators and administrators in this discussion on professional development for principals and administrators.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education 'Widespread' Racial Harassment Found at Utah School District
The federal probe found hundreds of documented uses of the N-word and other racial epithets, and harsher discipline for students of color.
1 min read
A CNG, compressed natural gas, school bus is shown at the Utah State Capitol, Monday, March 4, 2013, in Salt Lake City. After a winter with back-to back episodes of severe pollution in northern Utah, lawmakers and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will discuss clean air legislation and call for government and businesses to convert to clean fuel vehicles.
Federal civil rights investigators found widespread racial harassment of Black and Asian American students in the Davis school district north of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Rick Bowmer/AP Photo
Education Tiny Wrists in Cuffs: How Police Use Force Against Children
An investigation finds children as young as 6 and a disproportionate amount of Black children have been handled forcibly by police officers.
15 min read
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Nam Y. Huh/AP
Education Gunman in 2018 Parkland School Massacre Pleads Guilty
A jury will decide whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed for one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
3 min read
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read