The NC Board of Education wants to pilot teacher performance pay

Eric Davis, chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Education, speaks during a briefing at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, NC, Tuesday, July 14, 2020.

Eric Davis, chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Education, speaks during a briefing at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, NC, Tuesday, July 14, 2020.

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State education leaders want North Carolina school districts to step up to pilot a program that would pay teachers based on their performance instead of on their years of experience.

The State Board of Education will vote Thursday on a motion that calls for identifying the changes that need to be made in state rules, policies and laws to make a performance pay model possible. The motion also calls for field testing/piloting of the new system before it could become a statewide program.

It’s ultimately up to the General Assembly whether to come up with what could be a significant increase in state funding for the new model.

“[If] we do a proof of concept demonstration that works by piloting this in districts across our state, that will create a much stronger argument to win the day [for funding]State Board of Education chairman Eric Davis said during Wednesday’s discussion of the new model.

Critics such as the North Carolina Association of Educators say it’s a merit pay system that won’t accurately reflect what teachers are doing and will cause people to quit the profession,

“We understand we’re going to get criticized for arguing for change,” Davis said. “We’ve got to change it for our students’ sake and for our teachers’ sake.”

performance pay

The Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC) has been working since early 2021 on the “North Carolina Pathways to Excellence for Teaching Professionals.

The draft model of PEPSC has been working on calls for a new multi-level license system that starts at $30,000 for apprentice teachers. Teachers who complete the traditional route of going to a school of education and passing licensure tests will receive a minimum state salary of $45,000.

The model would require teachers to demonstrate their effectiveness to move to the next license level to get higher pay. Effectiveness would be based on student growth on state tests, reviews by their principal, student surveys or other measures that would be developed.

Many of the details haven’t been worked out yet, such as how the teachers would have assessed.

The draft model calls for paying “expert teachers” a minimum salary of $56,000. They’d also be eligible for stipends of $5,000 or $10,000 a year if they take on additional duties such as mentoring other teachers.

‘Student-first model’

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said PEPSC is developing a “student-first model” that will better support teachers professionally and reward them with higher pay for being effective educators. Truitt said that teacher effectiveness is more meaningful than years of experience for raising student achievement.

“This model is trying to correct many deficiencies in an overly complicated, burdensome licensing process that only looks at teacher compensation from a statewide perspective based on years of experience,” said Truitt, who is a PEPSC member.

During a time of teacher shortages, Truitt said young people don’t want to enter a profession where they have to work decades to get the highest salaries.

“When you ask high school kids even why would you not go into education, there’s any number of answers why,” Truitt said. “But one of them is I don’t want to go into a job where I need to stay in for 25 years.”

Blueprints for Action

In November, PEPSC approved in a 9-7 vote a “Blueprint for Action” that’s a representation of the work they’ve done so far. Van Dempsey, the chairman of PESPC, said they needed the state board to sign off on requesting changes to the way teachers are licensed and paid before the commission could finalize a model.

The Blueprint For Action has 10 action points, including:

Build and fund a compensation model that reflects the importance and value of the teaching profession and that attracts and retains people in the profession.

Secure funding to support the infrastructure of the framework in all schools and districts as well as their discrete components.

‘Multi-year, multi-phase effort’

The motion the state board will vote on calls for receiving the Blueprint and taking several action steps:

Ask State Superintendent Catherine Truitt to identify how the Blueprint aligns with the goals and objectives in the board’ strategic plan and Truitt’s Operation Polaris.

Ask state board attorney Allison Schafer to identify polices, rules, statutes and legislative changes that would be needed for the state board to implement the Blueprint.

Ask PEPSC to make recommendations on policies or rules that would be necessary to implement field testing or piloting of the Blueprint.

Davis said the motion reflects that the board has more work to do before it can implement the new model.

“This is a multi-year, multi-phase effort,” Davis said. “We’re going to start making progress. But it’s not a decision today and it will be implemented statewide tomorrow.”

Business community support

Public records obtained by Justin Parmenter, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg teacher and NCAE board member, show that the Atlanta-based Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the North Carolina Human Capital Roundtable helped develop the new model.

Other emails show that SREB, the Roundtable and the public relations firm of Eckel & Vaughn plan to create a group called UpliftEd to promote the new model.

The Charlotte-based Belk Foundation provided a grant to fund a public relations campaign to help get the plan approved.

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T. Keung Hui has covered 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. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers state-wide education issues.