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Follow-Up: Utilizing Master Teachers


Anna Martin

My colleagues and I seem to agree on the following:

Creating opportunities for master teachers to spend part of their day mentoring new teachers is a must. Post after post extolled the value of such a system. Such hybrid roles would spread teacher leadership, ensure a "quality teacher in every classroom" even for classes assigned "first-year" teachers, and reduce new teachers' workloads to provide more time for practice and acclimation before fully taking the reins of a classroom. (Again, I'd encourage all who care about this idea to take a look at the Bay Area New Millennium Initiative report released last week—we came up with a great graphic for how teachers' career paths could change.)

The Teaching Ahead participants agreed that such roles would benefit both teachers and students. But how can we help convey this idea to policymakers and others, justifying the potential costs and risks of such a systemic change?

Absent a magic wand, in other words, what justifications will ring true with decision-makers?

Here are some thoughts:

• The costs are already too high! The national cost of teacher attrition is estimated at $4.9 billion dollars per year for the nation.

• What if we could set aside a chunk of those dollars to fund in-depth preparation that provides preservice teachers with the skills and practice they need for sustained success? Savings in retention could be applied to loans and grants for teacher candidates. This could aid promising teacher candidates who might otherwise feel compelled to opt for alternative-certification programs that pay teachers to begin teaching before they are fully prepared.

• If districts collaborated with preparation programs to develop such residencies, they would have the autonomy necessary to meet local schools' and students' specific needs. Districts could also build residencies into their pay scales. For example, apprentice teachers might initially earn less than a full teacher salary—and accomplished teachers might have the ability to earn more by taking on hybrid roles (like being a mentor teacher).

• We can't fix what we don't recognize as a problem. Stereotypes of "bad teachers" have eclipsed the more realistic issue of "underprepared teachers." Let's help the public learn about why funding for teacher preparation is vitally important to our society, our families, and our students.

The fact that my Teaching Ahead colleagues have consensus around this idea gives me hope that it can happen: the sooner, the better... for new teachers and, most importantly, for their students.

Anna L. Martin holds National Board certification and is the resource teacher at Lee Mathson Middle School in San Jose, Calif.

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