Utah Reform Panel Urges Career Ladder for Teachers

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In Utah, which has the fastest-growing school-age population in the United States, a task force studying educational reform has found "an education system locked into a network of operating procedures by a multitude of traditions, decisions, practices, and attitudes which have evolved slowly over the years," and has recommended 27 steps "to dislodge or alter some of the procedures."

"The recommendations look to an education system where administrators are more concerned with instructional support than administrative details, where teachers are participants in the decision-making process and are provided incentives for personal growth, where students are held to strict academic requirements in basic study areas, and where parents are drawn into the educational process for at least minimal contributions," asserts the report of the Utah Commission on Excellence.

Among the measures recommended are a new incentive-pay program and more flexible contracts for teachers, a strengthened core curriculum, and more productive use of the school day.

The 22-member commission--composed of principals, teachers, state education officials, parents, and representatives of higher education, government, and industry--submitted its final recommendations to the state board of education on Oct. 7.

According to the proposal for a three-step career ladder, apprentice teachers would hold a provisional teaching certificate and would be supervised by master teachers for a period of two to three years. The apprentice teachers would receive a base salary of about $17,500, with ''modest" yearly salary increases based on performance, according to the panel.

The $17,500 starting salary is "comparable with that of recent college graduates who enter the labor force with similar academic preparation," according to Richard E. Ken3dell, associate superintendent in the state education agency, who served as a staff assistant to the panel. Mr. Kendell said that the current average for beginning teachers in the state is $13,500; the average salary for all teachers is $19,000.

'Professional Teachers'

A second tier would be established for "professional teachers," who would be responsible for program development and for the supervision of student teachers. Salaries for this group would be set at a minimum of 15 percent more than the base salary for apprentice teachers (or $20,125), with a maximum salary of 75 percent more than the apprentice base salary (or $30,625), the task force said.

The panel would also establish a corps of "teacher leaders,"who would be responsible for the development of curriculum and instruction in their own schools. This group would be required to have "not only a professional certificate but also an appropriately higher competence of teaching skills as assessed by a committee of peers and other professionals including the principal." The base salary for the teacher leaders "would vary according to the degree of responsibility, evaluation of established performance standards" and the length of the contract, which could be extended.

The salary range would be from about 75 percent more than the apprentice base salary ($30,625) and "top off" at about $40,000, according to Mr. Kendell.

The new teacher-recognition system would require the state legislature to add $157 million to $168 million to its annual education appropriation, assuming a $17,500 beginning base salary for apprentice teachers.

Unlike proposals introduced by Governors Thomas Kean of New Jersey and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, which would limit the number of teachers who could be recognized as master teachers, the Utah panel's plan contends that "because the need for teacher leaders varies from district to district and from school to school, a fixed ratio or percentage would not be supported."

Along with its call for a career ladder, the report also recommends ''more flexible contracting procedures" for teachers, including shared arrangements with businesses and academe and part-time arrangements, primarily to accommodate mothers who do not want to work full time. Such contracting procedures "would provide teachers more career options and allow recruitment over a broader range of potential teachers," according to the report.

The commission urges the legislature to alter the laws governing state-sponsored scholarships to teachers' colleges by raising academic requirements for scholarship recipients and by adding programs to "encourage non-teaching professionals to transfer into the teaching profession and to encourage qualified students to seek teaching careers in the fields of science and mathematics."

Other Recommendations

Among its other recommendations, the panel urged that schools:

Make better use of the school day by increasing the proportion of time spent on academics. Schools should "reduce or eliminate excessive interruptions such as announcements, administrative detail work, and extracurricular activities" and "set a minimum amount of time during the day and year which must be allocated to core educational subjects: reading, language arts, mathematcience, social studies, and related core subjects," the report said. It also urged that schools adopt strategies disclosed in so-called "effective-schools" research to obtain the maximum benefit from class time.

Relieve teachers of administrative duties and clerical tasks through the use of volunteers, computers, and other means.

Set strict academic standards as a prerequisite to participation in extracurricular activities, which should be conducted "outside school hours," according to the report.

Identify and establish curriculum standards, guidelines, and expected educational outcomes for elementary and secondary schools in the state. Included in the curriculum should be additional emphasis on higher-order thinking skills and provisions for alternative programs aimed at preparation for college, high-technology specialization, advanced vocational training, general education, entry into the job market after high school, and sheltered workshops for disabled workers.

Enact a statute that defines "in loco parentis" rights and duties and strengthens the authority of the state's Professional Practices Commission to deal with school-discipline problems.

The panel also supported legislation to provide tax credits for businesses and individuals that donate money for scholarships and teacher training.

Vol. 03, Issue 07

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