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Delaware Eyes Revamp to Pay, Creation of Teacher-Leader Roles

In recommendations to Gov. Jack Markell, a panel of Delaware leaders and education officials has recommended shifting to a pay system that recognizes a variety of different roles for teachers—and moves away from traditional "steps and lanes" approach, in which teachers are paid solely on experience and credentials. (Hat tip to Alex Russo for tweeting out a story about the panel.)

The panel, which includes lawmakers, state board representatives, and the head of the state teachers' union, recently released a report outlining how such a plan might work. In essence, the new system would raise beginning salaries and collapse the number of incremental "steps." Teachers with good teacher-evaluation scores and a record of experience could apply to move to higher tiers as "teacher leaders" or "senior teacher leaders," where they would be given release time from some classroom duties to take on additional responsibilities, such as mentoring new teachers and devising student interventions.

The career-ladder idea seems similar to Baltimore's, which I profiled about a year ago. 

The history here goes back a while. Delaware's Committee to Advance Educator Compensation and Careers was established by 2014 legislation and charged with making recommendations on alternative compensation. 

Radio station WHYY recently did a nice look at the system, and it's clear from its reporting that the plan required all parties to rethink a lot of sacred cows. "I would have walked a picket line for [steps and lanes] 10 years ago," the program quotes Frederika Jenner, the president of the Delaware Education Association, as saying.

Delaware's move is not completely unprecidented among states. Iowa launched a statewide career-ladder initiative in 2013 but made it optional for districts to participate. Idaho also has a statewide career-ladder system, although it's brand new and the details are still fairly sketchy. Still, as WHYY show notes, there can be a whole host of additional wrinkles in crafting a system in statewide, rather than district-by-district, given variations in local living costs, teacher supply, and so forth. 

To be clear, right now these are just preliminary recommendations in Delaware. The legislature has created several new working groups to begin hashing out all the nitty-gritty details, but this is an initiative to watch.

Stay tuned!

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