High Quality Teachers- Dream or Reality
The Kirwin Commission named after Brit Kirwin former President of the University System of Maryland has been charged with making recommendations for the improvement of education in Maryland. One big part of the recommendation is the report of the sub-group on High Quality Teachers and Leaders Workgroup.
There are many recommendations from the group, all of which will dramatically increase the cost of teachers in Maryland. The bigger question is whether the recommendations, if funded ( a HUGE if), would also increase the quality of the teaching in Maryland.
The first section of the report addresses pay equity of teachers with other professions and with teachers in Massachusetts and New Jersey. The Workgroup is recommending an-across-the board increase of 10% in the next three years in order to achieve this objective. No mention is made of whether or not merit will be taken into account for this increase nor of the fact that the cost of living in New Jersey and Massachusetts is much higher than that of Maryland.
The report acknowledges the roles of the various unions in setting teachers' salaries. It recommends that the State conduct periodic benchmarking studies of teachers' salaries. Each county and local union will receive from the State at the start of each collective bargaining process the weighted salaries of comparable professionals such as registered nurses and accountants. Again there is no mention of the fact that merit figures highly into the salaries of other professionals unlike teachers who all receive the same salary with the same education and same time in the profession in the same jurisdiction.
The next big section of the report concerns a career ladder for teachers. The career ladder they are suggesting is similar to the those found in Singapore and Shanghai.
The State would provide the design parameters for each step of the ladder, although local systems may make their own corrections within the parameters spelled out by the State. It is projected that there will be many more teachers at the bottom rungs of the ladder than at the top. Positions at the top will also be limited so that people will only be able to move into those spots based on availability. This approach is different from a salary plan implemented by Baltimore City in which salaries are regularly topping 100K based on a system similar to earning merit badges. In the proposed system, movement up the ladder will be a function of performance and experience. There will be a teacher leadership track and an administrative leadership track. Individuals may move horizontally between the two tracks. Along with these new tracks will be a proposal to raise the standards for acquiring a teaching license. The new standard does not measure classroom performance but rather a test of teaching ability. These new tests require the submission of portfolios designed to show how well an applicant teaches absent the children in a real classroom. An individual can prepare a great portfolio but will it fly with 28.5 children in a real 8th grade classroom.
All of these steps admittedly will dramatically raise the cost of teachers. And if teachers can’t meet the new standards, the plan will also reduce the number of teachers at a time when student enrolled in Colleges of Education is falling significantly.
This is an ambitious plan that will cost a great deal of money without really assuring that the quality of teachers will improve. Unless we can also improve the quality of the teaching we will just be getting better paid weak teachers