Report: Rochester career ladder is broken

Highly regarded and much imitated, Rochester’s career ladder for teachers “doesn’t hold teachers to high standards, shelters underperformers and undermines principals’ ability to manage their schools,” according to a district-commissioned study obtained by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Introduced in 1987, the program created four tiers of teaching levels that ranged from intern to lead teacher and offered support for teachers at each level of their careers. The program, along with huge raises written into the district’s contract with teachers that year, quickly became the focus of national attention as a collaborative way for veteran teachers to mentor newcomers.

. . . The study, conducted by Rachel Curtis, an education consultant who formerly headed instruction in Boston Public Schools, found that teacher advancement in the program was essentially a rubber stamp defined by time served rather than performance.

The study recommended improving measures of teacher effectiveness and including principals’ input in evaluating teachers.

Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski called the criticism “shallow and myopic” and suggested the study was slanted to favor what he referred to as the “dictatorial, top-down” leadership style of (Superintendent Jean-Claude) Brizard, who has advocated for greater principal control in teacher hiring and firing.

. . . “(The program) was a national model. To still call it a national model 25 years later is a problem,” Brizard said. “Adam is so married to what he created that he can’t step back and see what’s good about it and what needs to be changed.”

He wrote in his e-mail that once teachers advance beyond the “intern” stage of their careers, “our system does little to provide them with meaningful feedback necessary to improve their practice.”

Teachers recently approved a no-confidence vote in Brizard.

In exchange for agreeing to the career ladder idea, Rochester’s teachers got raises that made them the highest-paid teachers in the country. I remember hearing Urbanski talk about 20 years ago. I don’t know if they’ve maintained that edge.

About Joanne


  1. Considering the graduation rate in the high schools…the last I saw were well under 50% I would be appalled to find out they are highly paid.