Some of the best teachers in Detroit will likely soon have a chance to become “master teachers,” taking a dual role in which they teach children half the time and coach teachers the other half.
Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says the model would give teachers who don’t want to become administrators another way to advance their careers and potentially make more money. It would also help alleviate the district’s severe teacher shortage because master teachers would spend part of their day in the classrooms.
That’s compared to the “instructional specialists” who currently support teachers in some Detroit schools. They spend all of their time instructing other teachers and have no classroom responsibilities.
“Master teachers would model lessons for beginning and struggling teachers, facilitate grade level and common planning, mentor new teachers or resident teachers, and student teachers,” Vitti said in an email. “Their classrooms would also serve as model or observation classrooms for other teachers.”
In discussing the model last week, Vitti said he expects that master teachers will co-teach a classroom of kids, with one teacher working with that classroom on math and science while the other teacher is elsewhere in the building, coaching educators who need help teaching English and social studies. Then, the two teachers will switch.
The shift to master teachers will help alleviate overcrowded classrooms, Vitti said.
“The district’s current model exacerbates the district’s teacher shortage because instructional specialists are fully released from the classroom right now,” he said.
“It reduces vacancies and creates greater credibility with teachers because [master teachers] are still tied to the classroom. That’s not to say that instructional specialists aren’t doing good work and aren’t respected, but I think this will create better buy-in,” he added.
Currently, instructional specialists in the Detroit district are paid roughly between $53,000 and $68,000.
Master teachers “will be paid their regular salary plus be given a stipend,” Vitti said. “Say $5,000 depending on how we negotiate that with the Detroit Federation of Teachers.”
To get into the program, teachers would need a letter of recommendation from a master teacher or an administrator and demonstrated success in helping children raise test scores, he said.
Once they’ve been identified as master teachers, principals in need would be able to hire them.
The program will also enable schools to have model classrooms where less experienced teachers can go to watch master teachers work.
Vitti is planning to use the master teacher program to better train teachers in common core standards, which defines what students should know at the end of each grade K-12. Vitti said instruction on the standards is one of the district’s major failings.
“One of our major definicines as a district, is when the state, and really the country, moved to common core standards, as a district we did not adequately train our teachers in that shift in literacy and mathematics,” he said. “Our vision in the fall is to work with DFT on this and every teacher will have a master teacher in literacy and a master teacher in mathematics.”
Vitti announced at a recent meeting of a school board academic committee that 50 teachers will be able to apply to attend common core training in Los Angeles, potentially as part of the master teacher training, using federal funds earmarked for professional development.