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Creating a Career Ladder for Teachers

Brooke Peters

Marsha Ratzel brought up an important point: Teachers need job descriptions that accurately reflect what we are expected to do. I would also add that we need room to grow within our teaching roles and we should be compensated for the additional projects or responsibilities we take on. In order to create differentiation in responsibilities and compensation, some schools, like Denver Green School, have created career-ladder systems for teachers that enable them to remain in the classroom while also exploring projects of interest or responsibilities based on their prior experience.

Denver Green School is a teacher-led school that is centered around sustainability. Their innovative approach to the teacher career development and compensation is also a model for sustainability in the profession. Teachers at the school are referred to as Associate Partners, Partners, or Lead Partners, and their responsibilities and compensation are based on individual teacher experience and abilities.

Associate Partners and Partners are in the classroom full time and are expected to perform the duties most of us associate with teaching (lesson planning, differentiated instruction, assessment, communicating with families, etc.). Associate Partners may also take on a project related to a topic of interest. When I visited this year as part of The Odyssey Initiative, we met with 6th grade Associate Partner, Sara Romito. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she has taken the lead on planning out-of-school nature experiences for the school. Outdoor education is one of her passions and she took this additional responsibility on with excitement.

When a teacher becomes a Partner in the school, he or she assumes additional responsibilities and leads larger organizational initiatives based on individual qualifications or interests. We met with 3rd grade Partner Kartal Jaquette. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he has taken the lead on the school hiring process.

The three Lead Partners of the school do not have their own classrooms and perform the administrative duties for the school.

In order to differentiate any position in a school, it's vital to think about the level of commitment to shared leadership and collaboration that is possible. Additional responsibilities based on areas of interest or experience should not be thrown on teachers as additional work, but approached as an avenue for teacher exploration and growth. Teachers should also be compensated fairly for the jobs they do. Denver Green School was created with additional freedom for compensating teachers equitably, and they are serving as a model for other schools to learn from.

Brooke Peters is co-founder of the The Odyssey Initiative, a teacher-led organizing planning to launch a new school in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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