Report: Divide teaching profession into levels

Published 8:58 pm Wednesday, January 14, 2009

MONTGOMERY — A commission appointed by Gov. Bob Riley has recommended that Alabama establish a system that allows teachers to advance in their careers and receive higher pay without having to leave the classroom for an administrative post.

The Governor’s Commission on Quality Teaching on Wednesday recommended a system where teachers advance to higher levels by meeting certain education and experience requirements. Each level would come with additional responsibilities for mentoring and leading other teachers.

At a news conference at the Capitol, the commission recommended that the teaching profession be divided into the following levels: apprentice teacher, classroom teacher, professional teacher, master teacher and learning designer.

The commission, made up mostly of teachers and school administrators, began its work in 2006. Earlier recommendations resulted in the creation of a mentoring program for teachers and the adoption by the state Board of Education of new standards for teachers.

State Schools Superintendent Joe Morton said it would be up to the Alabama Board of Education to implement the recommendations of the commission.

Morton said he expected the different levels of teaching to be introduced on a trial basis in one or two school systems. Legislators are considering cuts to the education budget because of the economic slowdown. Because of that, Morton said there might not be money available initially to put into the program.

The commission chair, former national teacher of the year Betsy Rogers of Birmingham, said currently if teachers want to advance in their careers financially or professionally they have to go into administration or leave the teaching profession.

Pamela Harman, a commission member who teaches science at Spain Park High School, said getting higher pay for advancing to master teacher or a higher level would be beneficial, but she said getting professional recognition would be more important to her.

“We came into the teaching profession knowing what the pay was going to be,” Harman said.

The state teacher’s union, the Alabama Education Association, supports the recommendation, said Mary Bruce Ogles, AEA’s assistant executive secretary and a member of the governor’s commission.

“We’re very pleased that teachers would have this opportunity to progress,” Ogles said.

Riley did not attend Wednesday’s announcement, but said in a statement that he supports the committee’s recommendations.

“With the recommendations in this report, we will afford excellent teachers with professional pathways that advance their careers without making them leave the classroom,” Riley said.

The governor’s education policy adviser, Mark Dixon, said the recommendations could redesign the teaching profession.

“This would allow teachers to do what they do best — teach — while continuing to advance in their field,” Dixon said.