BOISE — One part of a program intended to boost teacher pay for veteran teachers is due this weekend, but some teachers have doubts about its benefit.
The portfolio is part of the Master Educator Premium. It's a program established in 2015 by the Idaho State Board of Education to recognize and financially reward experienced, exemplary educators. While it was only expected to take around 40 hours to complete, many teachers are frustrated after spending more than double that on a program they're worried won't benefit their students.
"In my opinion, not only is this bad for teachers, but it's actually really bad for students," said Levi Cavener, teacher for the Vallivue School District.
Cavener is a qualified Idaho veteran teacher and he is not submitting a portfolio for the Master Educator Premium program, despite the $12,000 that could be added to an eligible teacher's paycheck spread over three years.
“Our very very best veteran teachers in Idaho spend their summers going and getting professional development, taking classes at university, researching new curriculum. That's what makes them the very best master teacher," said Cavener.
It's a risk for teachers that, while they may qualify to submit the portfolio, they may not be selected, leaving them with a portfolio they put a lot of hours into, but no added funds to their salary.
"The portfolio itself is 26 blank pages without any of the actual work of teachers going through, adding their artifacts,” said Cavener.
Even teachers who have submitted a portfolio are frustrated with the work expected. On a Facebook post from the Idaho Education News, teachers left their opinions of the portfolio, including comments like, "it took closer to 80 hours."
According to the President of the Boise Education Association, Stephanie Myers, "To require a portfolio system doesn't really show what a teacher does on a daily basis. A master teacher can show growth and show improvement and be highlighted in other ways."
And while the State Board of Education only budgeted around 40 hours to complete this portfolio, they know it's taking a lot longer. “The feedback we have gotten from educators is that it takes much more time than that," said Tracie Bent, Chief Planning and Policy Officer for the State Board of Education.
But the board assures it will be worth it for the teachers who qualify, "There's no cap. So if every teacher that was eligible applied and then also met that bar set by the rubric, they would all receive the premium," said Bent.
And the percentage of applicants for this program is a lot higher in Idaho than in other places who follow a similar program. Out of around five other states who use the Master Educator Premium setup, about two percent of teachers apply. Idaho has around 850 applications, which equates to about 10 percent of veteran teachers here in Idaho.
This Master Educator Premium program was created following the establishment of Governor Otter’s task force for improving education. It is the State Board of Education’s way of carrying out the commands of the legislature and was implemented at the same time as the teacher career ladder. This year is the first year it takes effect.
The State Department of Education plans to evaluate this program following portfolio submission and make adjustments to the program as needed.