A few weeks back, I wrote about a few of our outstanding teachers. What I didn't write about was how our talented educators are not working alone. We have education experts working across several schools to mentor and support teachers with coaching, training and curriculum development.
Policies and structures are being administered by former teachers, including me, who know well and value the work our teachers do every day. And my experiences from when I was a teacher ground the decisions I make every day.
San Francisco Unified School District teachers are part of a well-structured network of support on the job. I'm hoping that after you read this, you will want to switch careers and become a teacher.
Here's what we offer:
A chance to impact lives
If you love learning, you'll love teaching. Teaching is always challenging and never boring. Every day is different, and no two students are alike. People become teachers to make a difference in children's lives. A well-educated child has more opportunities in life and contributes to the betterment of our entire community. One of our goals in the SFUSD is to make social justice a reality, and we strive to attract teachers who share this goal.
Opportunities for growth
We aim to foster learning communities at each school and across schools where teachers have time to collaborate and plan together. For example, teachers are working across the district to plan Common Core State Standards math and English units to share with their colleagues and are sitting together in grade-level teams to reflect and plan.
New teachers get personalized, professional guidance from experienced peers. Even teachers who have been on the job a long time can receive structured, individualized help from their colleagues through our Master Teacher and Peer Assistance Review programs.
The SFUSD has dedicated staff members who help interested teachers earn National Board for Teaching Professionals certification, which results in additional pay as well as improved instruction for students. Like board-certified doctors and accountants, teachers who achieve this certification have met rigorous standards through intensive study, expert evaluation, self-assessment and peer review. Our district has one of the highest percentages of board-certified teachers in the state.
San Francisco taxpayers fund the Quality Teacher and Education Act so all our teachers have more opportunities to receive high-quality training and coaching. And at those schools where students need the most support, we have deployed expert teachers who provide mentoring to teachers in English, math and science instruction.
Currently, compensation for beginning teachers at the SFUSD is in the top 10 percent when compared to other districts in big cities across the country, according to a recent analysis done by the National Council on Teacher Quality. In addition to professional development, local QTEA funds give teachers a salary bump at critical points in their careers. SFUSD teachers also receive step increases, which are set times in a teacher's career when his or her salary increases.
Even with step increases and the QTEA, our teachers have not received raises for several years and salaries are still not where we want them to be. We are working hard to seek more resources so we can invest more in our students and our educators. With a slight increase in state revenues predicted, I'm happy to report that we can finally give our teachers modest raises over the next few years.
Ready to teach?
When the professional-growth opportunities are combined with the average teacher's salary, retirement and lifetime health benefits, I hope that choosing teaching as a career might be more attractive than you thought.
For people who want to become teachers, we even have a unique student teacher program called the San Francisco Teacher Residency program that combines a yearlong apprenticeship with master's-level coursework, hands-on learning and mentoring from experienced teachers.
If you are a teaching assistant in our schools who wants to become a teacher, you can get assistance to get the training you need through the Paraprofessional to Teacher program.
I hope you will consider teaching and encourage your children and your friends to consider teaching. Our children deserve the best and the brightest.
Richard A. Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.