This was submitted as an idea to the Politifest 2012 Idea Tournament. VOSD members will vote on the best ideas and on Sept. 19 we’ll announce six contenders (Not a member? Join now to vote). At Politifest on Sept. 29, each of the six finalists will have five minutes to pitch their idea to a panel. The panel rates the ideas and two finalists advance. The crowd at Politifest will vote on a winner. The winner will receive an “idea-inspired” trophy custom-designed by former City Councilwoman Donna Frye. VOSD CEO Scott Lewis will also write about the winner’s idea.

No one really knows what’s going on in individual public school classrooms. Observations by principals tend to be fleeting and few. We don’t need to fire anybody, but we do need to use highly-skilled teachers and ordinary teachers where they can do the optimal good.

The truth is that the critical moments in learning don’t happen continuously five hours a day. They add up to at most a couple of hours each day, and probably much less. The rest of the time an ordinary teacher can handle lesson reinforcement, computer activities, art projects, silent reading, etc.

The best teachers should be able to rise far above average teachers on the salary scale — and they should have far more responsibility. In my plan, each classroom would have a full-time regular teacher. Several classrooms would share a master teacher, who would be responsible for student progress, teaching lessons part-time and guiding the regular teacher. Gifted regular teachers would be eligible to become master teachers. Instead of bringing in vendors selling the latest gimmick for tens of thousands of dollars, master teachers would do all necessary training.

Here’s the comparison for four classrooms and one extra salary (in thousands):


We Stand Up For You. Will You Stand Up For Us?

Currently: $60 + $60 + $60 + $60 + $60 = $300

New plan: $100+$50+$50+$50+$50 = $300 (minus exorbitant cost of education vendors)

If we add more money, we could have more master teachers. Meaningful evaluations of teachers would have to be instituted. Current evaluation systems are worse than useless. My plan would call for frequent observations by both master and regular teachers, who would observe classrooms in other districts to keep school politics at bay. The observations would have a beneficial side effect: they would allow teachers to pick up new ideas.

Maura Larkins submitted this idea to the Politifest 2012 Idea Tournament. Join us on Sept. 29!

    This article relates to: Fix San Diego, Letters, Opinion, VOSD Events

    Written by Maura Larkins

    26 comments
    Maura Larkins
    Maura Larkins subscriber

    Teachers have a right to have unions, but it seems that many of the leaders of those unions have lost sight of the very reason that public schools exist--to create a society of skilled, informed, thoughtful people. Recently we saw right here in San Diego Unified that rank and file teachers were able to eject union leaders who were willing to run the district into the ground. Teachers are usually too busy to pay much attention to who is in charge of their unions and how those people are using their power, but that may change. The deal reached recently in Chicago is brilliant, and I think teachers will approve it. They get a raise in pay--and a new evaluation system!

    Maura Larkins
    Maura Larkins

    Teachers have a right to have unions, but it seems that many of the leaders of those unions have lost sight of the very reason that public schools exist--to create a society of skilled, informed, thoughtful people. Recently we saw right here in San Diego Unified that rank and file teachers were able to eject union leaders who were willing to run the district into the ground. Teachers are usually too busy to pay much attention to who is in charge of their unions and how those people are using their power, but that may change. The deal reached recently in Chicago is brilliant, and I think teachers will approve it. They get a raise in pay--and a new evaluation system!

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    I applaud your efforts to seek a workable solution to marginal teachers, but until there are meaningful metrics on individual teacher performance and an ability to reward or not reward teachers at an individual level, nothing can be done inside the schools to help the situation. The best locomotive built is useless without tracks. We need to build the tracks, the foundation first, or we need to build a new system.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones

    I applaud your efforts to seek a workable solution to marginal teachers, but until there are meaningful metrics on individual teacher performance and an ability to reward or not reward teachers at an individual level, nothing can be done inside the schools to help the situation. The best locomotive built is useless without tracks. We need to build the tracks, the foundation first, or we need to build a new system.

    Maura Larkins
    Maura Larkins subscriber

    Scientists, lawyers, business owners and school administrators could work part time as master teachers. They could be responsible for just one or two classrooms, and be able to continue (or start) another career.

    Maura Larkins
    Maura Larkins

    Scientists, lawyers, business owners and school administrators could work part time as master teachers. They could be responsible for just one or two classrooms, and be able to continue (or start) another career.

    Allen Hemphill
    Allen Hemphill subscribermember

    If we had 325,00 GREAT teachers we still could not fund that, unless you want to drive on gravel roads, and protect yourself. THE STATE IS BROKE!

    Akamai
    Akamai

    If we had 325,00 GREAT teachers we still could not fund that, unless you want to drive on gravel roads, and protect yourself. THE STATE IS BROKE!

    Maura Larkins
    Maura Larkins subscriber

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to explain!

    Maura Larkins
    Maura Larkins

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to explain!

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    What evidence can you offer that the detriment of taking a teacher out of a permanent class and the benefit of having them spending their time looking over a junior teachers shoulder is a net positive?

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones

    What evidence can you offer that the detriment of taking a teacher out of a permanent class and the benefit of having them spending their time looking over a junior teachers shoulder is a net positive?

    Akamai
    Akamai

    Henry Ludd would be proud!

    Maura Larkins
    Maura Larkins subscriber

    I was hoping someone would ask about this, since I had a 300-word limit and didn't have space to write about it in my submission.

    Maura Larkins
    Maura Larkins

    I was hoping someone would ask about this, since I had a 300-word limit and didn't have space to write about it in my submission.

    Maura Larkins
    Maura Larkins subscriber

    Of course, experience isn't the only thing that differentiates teachers. Some have more motivation and knowledge, and each one has different natural abilities. But they all have something to contribute, and we could accomplish more if each teacher were in a position where his or her strengths were optimally utilized.

    Maura Larkins
    Maura Larkins

    Of course, experience isn't the only thing that differentiates teachers. Some have more motivation and knowledge, and each one has different natural abilities. But they all have something to contribute, and we could accomplish more if each teacher were in a position where his or her strengths were optimally utilized.

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    You might start by attempting to get them to support an evaluation system based on student performance. After you sell that one, let's take a hard look at your new scheme, OK?

    toulon
    toulon

    You might start by attempting to get them to support an evaluation system based on student performance. After you sell that one, let's take a hard look at your new scheme, OK?

    Sally Smith
    Sally Smith subscriber

    Maura Larkins' idea has a lot of merit. It is a fact that teachers teach better when they are being observed. Each time I have observed a class my kids said it was one of the best lessons they received. In San Diego Unified, teachers bring in salespersons for for-profit education companies that took students' personal information, show movies several times a week, and other useless time-wasting activities. Teachers make good money and get good benefits and should be evaluated so that students get effective teachers. That what taxpayers are paying for but are not getting.

    Sally Smith
    Sally Smith

    Maura Larkins' idea has a lot of merit. It is a fact that teachers teach better when they are being observed. Each time I have observed a class my kids said it was one of the best lessons they received. In San Diego Unified, teachers bring in salespersons for for-profit education companies that took students' personal information, show movies several times a week, and other useless time-wasting activities. Teachers make good money and get good benefits and should be evaluated so that students get effective teachers. That what taxpayers are paying for but are not getting.