PED paves new road for teacher advancement - Albuquerque Journal

PED paves new road for teacher advancement

Some students pay attention while teacher Therese Garcia directs her class in an activity at the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy in July. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Teaching all day and then going home to work on an epic dossier about your classroom could be a lengthy, burdensome and sometimes disappointing task for New Mexico teachers. But that’s what they had to do to advance through the licensure levels.

As of this month, some of them will have a different option.

The state Public Education Department is in the process of rolling out its new micro-credentialing program, which uses online courses teachers can take to advance through levels.

Education officials are touting the new system as more manageable and useful than its predecessor, which forced teachers to document and summarize what it looks like to be in their classroom. Sometimes, when they failed, they had to wait months for any feedback about why.

“It was a really intensive process to do the dossier,” interim Director of Educator Quality and Ethics Layla Dehaiman said. “Whereas this is … intended more to support you as you’re growing in the field and as you’re practicing becoming a great teacher.”

The first of those micro-credentials, “classroom environment,” was made available this month to level one teachers. About 356 have already registered for the first series of micro-credentials, Dehaiman said, and will begin taking the first course by the end of the month.

The new system is more financially sustainable for educators, Dehaiman said. Each micro-credential will cost teachers $60, whereas the initial submission fee for the dossier system is $320.

There are five micro-credentials in the first series, meaning that all told, the new system will run teachers about $300 – only $20 less than the cost of the dossier.

But Dehaiman noted that the breakup of the series into five distinct micro-credentials makes the system more manageable, both financially and in terms of commitment, because educators are free to “jump in when they’re ready.”

Advancing to the next level of teacher licensure can bring substantial raises. Under legislation approved by lawmakers earlier this year, the minimum salary of a level two teacher is $10,000 more than that of a starting teacher.

The new system also provides instantaneous feedback, Dehaiman said, which was previously a concern expressed by many educators. The micro-credentials will be more interactive, she added, because each will be capped at 20 students.

Chris Kenner, a Horizon Academy West third grade teacher, failed the first time she submitted a dossier to advance to level three. But she said she never received feedback on her first attempt until she submitted her second one because of a “glitch in the system.”

Kenner, who helped develop one of the micro-credentials, said the new system’s a step up, but noted there were times when she felt the feedback she got was “copy and paste,” and not always relevant.

But some of the feedback was useful, Kenner said, as was the content in the actual courses.

“As long as you’re a good teacher, you should be reflective,” she said. “Even though I took the micro-credentialing course as a level three teacher … I thought it was useful.”

Each micro-credential, in turn, is made up of five courses, and takes 10 to 16 hours over six to 12 weeks to complete. If they’re taken one after another, the entire series would take about a year and three months to finish.

The five micro-credentials each cover a specific skill or area in the teaching profession. They are: classroom environment; multi-layered systems of support, which includes school and family supports; assessment literacy, which covers the processes and principles behind assessments; culturally and linguistically responsive instruction; and family engagement.

The dossier system will remain in place through May 2024, so teachers – like those who are currently level two and who won’t see micro-credentials allowing them to progress to level three until next year – can still advance that way.

American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Whitney Holland said there were some positives about the new system – including the reduced financial burden and the fact that the advancement program is less involved.

Still, she was somewhat cautious about the shift.

“I’m excited to see the rollout,” she said. “Change is always tricky, and I think we’ll hit some learning bumps as it happens, but I think it has the potential to be really exciting for educators.”

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