Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Teacher Advancement Opportunities

Prospective teachers will want to understand the relationship between advancing up the salary scale and taking on new opportunities. Teachers are typically paid according to salary scales that reflect their years of service and their educational attainment. A local education authority may, for example, pay a particular salary to a teacher who has five years of experience and a bachelor's degree, another to a teacher who has five years of experience and an additional 15 semester hours of graduate credit. Salary scales vary. The district may give equal weight to a master’s degree and 30 semester hours of graduate coursework. Some districts reward teachers who have significantly higher levels of educational attainment -- those who hold doctoral degrees or the equivalent may be paid more than their counterparts.

Some new positions will give an educator a new title and license, for example, an administrative license or educational services license.

Advancement typically requires some combination of education and successful experience. National Board certification can also be a part of the equation. National Board certification is a rigorous portfolio-based process. Teachers report that, due to the work involved in achieving certification, they end up not only validating teaching skills but taking them to a new level. Certified teachers may receive a stipend or other remuneration.

There are more opportunities for advancement in K-12 education than one might imagine! Teachers have different options for higher coursework and higher degrees. Teachers often choose to pursue graduate degrees in endorsement areas such as English as a Second language even when they can satisfy coursework requirements through a somewhat shorter program. They may earn new endorsements along the way but still hold the same basic title: teacher. They will, in many cases, still be on the same salary scale.

Literacy Specialists

Some specialized teaching positions require a master's degree. One very common one nationwide is that of reading specialist. Reading specialists provide intervention and assessment. They may work with individuals or small groups of students who need extra support. They may also provide support to classroom teachers. Many schools use a tiered system whereby students who are struggling in the classroom receive targeted intervention; this is sometimes referred to as Response to Intervention (RTI). Many students make progress without needing special education services. Federal moneys are often used to fund literacy specialist positions.

A reading specialist typically needs teaching experience as well as graduate education.

Math, Technology, and STEM Specialists

A number of states also have a math specialist endorsement. States that issue the math specialist endorsement have envisioned it in different ways. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has recommended that elementary math specialists have 24 semester hours of specialized coursework. A master’s is common. At some elementary schools, students switch classes for targeted math instruction. The math specialist may see groups of students who are targeted as needing more support to meet math standards. Math specialists may be instrumental in a school’s RTI program. Some math specialists serve as resources and coaches to other teachers. They are often district-based.

The NCTM has noted that math specialists are utilized even in states that don't have a math specialist endorsement.

Technology specialist is another common endorsement. Some states recognize STEM specialists.

Additional Specialist Roles

Teachers are not limited to the above fields. They work as curriculum specialists or instructional support specialists across disciplines. They may implement initiatives, evaluate programs, conduct professional development activities, and/ or provide coaching. Some districts have systems in place to support personalized professional development. Teachers may work one on one with a coach to develop a new strategy or implement a new program or approach.

Sometimes districts hire teachers on special assignment when they want to develop new programs or improve instruction in particular areas but don't have funding to last into the indefinite future. The teacher may take a break from traditional classroom teaching or teach fewer classes during his or her special assignment yet maintain status with the district. There may be an additional stipend for special assignments.

Leadership Opportunities

A teacher may ultimately become director of a specialized department such as special education. It’s not necessary to leave classroom teaching behind to utilize one’s leadership expertise, however. Teachers who have proved themselves take on additional duties such as mentoring new teachers. They may receive stipends of varying amounts.

Those who seek outside jobs become eligible for increasingly complex ones. Those who like to work in assessment and scoring may eventually evaluate other teachers. They may, for example, be involved with assessing student teacher performance on the edTPA, a portfolio-based teacher assessment.

Teachers who aspire to vice principal and principal positions are typically required to have a master’s or other advanced degree as well as, at minimum, a few years of classroom experience. States set different licensing/ certification requirements for principals, much like they do for teachers.

Seeking One’s Own Path

Many teachers who pursue degrees in educational administration remain in the classroom. The degree can still be valuable. One recent study that failed to find a correlation between master's degrees and student achievement (as measured by standardized tests) noted a correlation between master's degrees and middle school attendance. Math teachers with master's degrees in administration had their young adolescents showing up in class a little more often!

For those who want to remain in classroom teaching positions, the decision to pursue one graduate level course over another can be personal. There are many options, including lesser known disciplines such as trauma-sensitive education. This particular degree could lead to opportunities outside the classroom, for example, as a consultant for publishers or policy makers. Teachers can use the coursework and research opportunities, though, to inform their own practice and to help them serve as resources to colleagues close at hand.