For years, the only way teachers in the Cincinnati Public Schools could advance their careers was to move to administration, either by becoming a principal or assistant principal or going to central office. By the late 1980s, the district and the teachers union recognized the need to keep talented teachers in classrooms and schools and allow teachers to play leadership roles within their profession.
CFT President Tom Mooney said there was a mutual interest to change the culture of the teaching profession, reduce teacher attrition, and keep the best teachers in school by rewarding them. "Our goalwas to cultivate a cadre of instructional leaders within the ranks of practitioners," Mooney said.
Teachers in the Career in Teaching program progress through intern, resident, career teacher, and lead teacher levels, with increased financial rewards at each step, based on a combination of assessment, advanced education, and experience. Only those teachers with at least six years in teaching - the last three in the district - can apply for lead teacher status. An extensive application is reviewed by the Career in Teaching panel, made up of three administrators and three teachers. If the application meets all criteria, the teacher is observed by a skilled veteran teacher called a trained teacher observer (TTO), who also interviews the applicant's principal and several teaching colleagues. Highly proficient teachers with demonstrated leadership ability are then recommended by the TTOs for lead teacher status.
Of the 3,500 teachers in Cincinnati Public Schools, currently 417 teachers have lead teacher credentials; 277 are actually serving in lead teacher positions. Only credentialed lead teachers can apply for professional leadership roles created by an agreement between the school district and CFT. Lead teachers serve in a variety of roles including interdisciplinary team leaders, subject area leaders, primary (K-3) and intermediate (4-6) level leaders, curriculum development specialists, instructors in professional development, consulting teachers, curriculum council chairs and facilitators of new or special programs. Lead teachers also serve as consulting teachers as part of the district's Peer Assistance and Evaluation Program.
The career ladder program gives teachers a much greater voice in setting direction for Cincinnati Public Schools. Nowhere are their voices heard more than in local schools, in particular, the district's team-based schools. A central focus of Cincinnati Public Schools' five-year plan, team-based schools have few restrictions in terms of staffing models and budget allocation. Teams of three to five teachers stay with and take responsibility for a common group of students for an entire instructional level.