NC Education Leaders Advocate Performance Pay for Teachers

Members of the State Board of Education pose for a group photo in June 2022 with Deanna Townsend-Smith, who left her position as the board's director of policy and operations, to become senior director of the Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity and Opportunity at the Public School Forum of North Carolina.

Members of the State Board of Education pose for a group photo in June 2022 with Deanna Townsend-Smith, who left her position as the board’s director of policy and operations, to become senior director of the Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity and Opportunity at the Public School Forum of North Carolina.

North Carolina Public Schools Forum

Amid mounting opposition from teachers, State Superintendent Catherine Truitt and State Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis gave a strident defense Thursday for switching to performance-based paying educators instead. than from their experience.

A state commission is working on a new licensing and compensation model that would pay teachers based on their scores on test scores or student assessments and whether they’re willing to take on additional duties.

In joint remarks Thursday, Truitt and Davis argued that the current licensing model is not working to encourage enough teachers to enter or stay in the profession.

“Teacher vacancies are skyrocketing in our state’s schools while enrollment in our colleges of education has plummeted over the past few years,” Davis said. “In short, our state is in an education crisis that is having a significant negative impact on today’s students and which, if left uncorrected, will damage our state for generations to come.”

But their defense drew criticism from groups such as the North Carolina Association of Educators, which opposed the new model.

“The current teaching crisis is not about our licensing system,” NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly, tweeted Thursday. “President Davis (and others) are incredibly dishonest in continuing to repeat this to push a deeply hated plan.”

The Professional Educator Preparation and Standardization Commission (PEPSC) hopes to present a final model in September to the state board for approval later this year. It would be up to state lawmakers to fund the plan.

“It’s time to let go of legacy thinking and move toward solutions that are about the future, not the past,” Truitt said.

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Members of the State Board of Education pose for a group photo in June 2022 with Deanna Townsend-Smith, who left her position as the board’s director of policy and operations, to become senior director of the Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity and Opportunity at the Public School Forum of North Carolina. North Carolina Public Schools Forum

Basing compensation on efficiency

Currently, teachers in North Carolina start with a base salary of $37,000. They get annual raises from the state for their first 15 years, then less frequent raises thereafter. The scale caps out at $54,000, but school districts and the state often top up the base salary.

Teachers can get state bonuses based on their students’ test scores, but it’s not rolled into their base salary.

Davis said the current model prevents too many highly effective teachers from staying in the classroom. He said changing the model was key to providing students with a solid basic education.

“Today, obtaining a license is an all too common hurdle for teachers entering and remaining in the profession,” Davis said. “The current licensing system does not contribute to the growth and development of a teacher, but often limits the opportunity for students to have an effective teacher.”

Under the new model, there would be seven tiers ranging from $30,000 for future teachers who have not yet earned a bachelor’s degree to the highest tier, where the proposed minimum salary is $73,000.

Instead of advancing with each year of experience, teachers would progress based on their effectiveness. Teachers can meet these standards based on student growth on state tests or reviews by their principal, a senior teacher, and student surveys.

The highest paying positions would go to effective teachers who take on additional leadership roles in their schools.

Correcting “misinformation”

Truitt and Davis said people had the wrong information about the model.

The new model is not about revoking licenses, but rather would give teachers several years to meet their license retention requirements, Truitt said.

Truitt and Davis also said it was not a “merit pay” model because student test data is just one of the options on which teachers would be evaluated. But Truitt also said the current generation of workers expect to stay in their jobs for up to five years, so experience is not a priority for them.

“Recruitment studies show that Gen Z and Millennials want jobs that allow them to advance, not by years of experience, but by demonstrated results,” Truitt said.

The business community supports change

The plan has received support from members of the business community. The Charlotte-based Belk Foundation provided a grant to fund a public relations campaign to get the plan approved.

Public records obtained by Charlotte-Mecklenburg College teacher and NCAE board member Justin Parmenter show that Atlanta’s Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and North Carolina Human Capital Roundtable helped develop the new model. Other emails show that SREB, the Roundtable and PR firm Eckel & Vaughn plan to start a group called UpliftEd to promote the new model.

The emails show former North Carolina governors Jim Hunt and Jim Martin agreed to be UpliftEd’s honorary co-chairs before Hunt decided to step down this month.

Other emails discuss avoiding talking about the complexity of the plan, developing a “proactive media strategy” and working to “gain better control of the narrative”.

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T. Keung Hui has been covering K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. Its primary focus is Wake County, but it also covers statewide education issues.

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