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Career advancement opportunities for early career teachers

By Ryan Fan

As a first-year or second-year teacher in Baltimore City, survival can seem like the biggest priority as you deal with the daily stressors of the classroom. Career advancement might be in the back of your mind as an early career teacher, but much of that is due to a lack of awareness and education. As a new teacher, I was not aware of opportunities for advancement. Being renewed by your principal can be a primary concern for a first-year teacher, as is finishing up a Conditional or Resident Teaching Certification to acquire a Standard Professional Certificate (SPC). Until you are tenured (after your third year of teaching), career advancement is usually at the bottom of your priority list compared to day-to-day survival. 

However, after conversations with many early career and veteran teachers, I started to be made aware of more resources. I don’t think I would have been made aware of many resources without the support of many friends and fellow teachers. Many early career teachers know about opportunities for career advancement and salary increases that come from Achievement Unit (AU) Courses, but many of these resources can be difficult to find. Here are some opportunities for advancement for an early career teacher who wants to devote a long career to serving Baltimore City youth, without being bombarded by unfamiliar BCPSS jargon and bureaucracy. These resources are not only useful for early career teachers, but also for veteran teachers who find the District’s information and resources cumbersome and convoluted:

  • Achievement Units: 12 AUs tied to a highly effective evaluation will move you up one interval on the salary scales. (Click here and check out pages 105-113 of the BTU Teacher Contract) However, AU courses can also be taken during the school year and throughout the summer, and can be found here. For Summer 2021 AU courses, click here.
  • The process for earning AUs can be very confusing for an early career teacher. A guide and handbook can be found here
  • You can earn 2, 3, or 6 AUs through curriculum writing. Find out more information and apply here.
  • If you score effective or higher on your annual evaluation, you can apply to move from the Standard pathway to the Professional pathway through an accelerated process. The accelerated process will put you on the professional pathway without needing to earn all the allotted AUs. You have to score “effective” or higher on your evaluation on the year before and year of submitting the application. 
  • See the following document for more guidance on accelerated movement to the Professional pathway. Follow the Facebook page for the Joint Governing Panel (JGP) to keep up to date on new AU opportunities.
  • Once you are on the Professional pathway as an early career teacher, an ambitious next step would be to move from the Professional pathway to the Model pathway. Click here for the Model process overview for related service providers, teachers, and instructional support providers. Click here for more resources. The process can seem very confusing, so make sure to contact if you have any questions on either the model or accelerated process.
  • Pay scales for each interval of the standard, professional, and model pathway, for various BTU positions, can be found in the 2019-2021 BTU teacher contract on pages 74-82. 

Above all, covering the basics and attending to your professional expectations and daily responsibilities of being a teacher are the best ways to quickly earn AUs and earn an SPC in the first place. However, it helps early career teachers to also be aware of supplemental AU opportunities as well as the accelerated and model processes. While opportunities for career advancement might change, I hope this list was helpful in informing or refreshing the many resources that are in place thanks to BTU’s bargaining efforts.

Ryan Fan is a second-year special education ELA teacher at the REACH! Partnership School.