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Plan to rewrite NC teacher licensing could also raise pay, but it's too early to say


The State Board of Education heard a preliminary proposal Wednesday for a draft plan that could dramatically change how North Carolina teachers are licensed and paid.

North Carolina Department of Instruction’s director of educator recruitment and support, Tom Tomberlin, says the proposal has the potential to increase teacher pay.

“Oh definitely,” Tomberlin told WUNC. “Most teachers, I would say, 90% of teachers would experience a salary increase under this model.”

If implemented, the plan would replace the current statewide salary schedule for teachers. Instead of receiving annual salary increases based on years of experience — typically known as step increases — a teacher’s pay would be based on which state license they hold.

The plan has a long way to go to be implemented and will need support from state lawmakers to become law.

Before diving into the details at the board meeting, Tomberlin cautioned that the model is still a work in progress.

The new licensing model, called the North Carolina Pathways to Excellence for Teaching Professionals, proposes seven steps on a spectrum:

The Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC) has been working on a new licensing plan for about a year, and staff at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction helped flesh out the model discussed this week. Here are the proposed steps:

  • Apprentice teacher ($30k): This role would be appropriate for a former teacher assistant or student-teacher who is pursuing a career in teaching and wants to get paid to co-teach with an experienced teacher. A bachelor’s degree and licensing would not be required.
  • License 1 ($38k): This role would be appropriate for what is commonly known as a lateral-entry teacher. This license would be similar to the current residency license, which is for someone who has a bachelor’s degree related to the content they teach, but did not major in education and has not yet completed licensing and content exams. Under the proposed model, this role would be paired with a mentor who has achieved the “advanced teacher” role.
  • License 2 ($40k): This license would be the next step for someone who starts at a License 1 after they have demonstrated mastery of content and pedagogy.
  • License 3 ($45k): Beginning teachers who have gone through a traditional pathway to receive a bachelor’s degree in education and have passed licensing exams would start at this level and could hold this license for up to 3 years. Under this model, they would be paired with a mentor who has achieved the “advanced teacher” role.
  • License 4 ($56k): Teachers with a minimum of 3 years of experience could advance to this license after showing evidence of effective instruction. The proposed model suggests a teacher could demonstrate effectiveness through either principal observations, student surveys or data showing they have improved their students’ test scores (EVAAS scores).
  • Advanced Teacher ($61k): Teachers who have achieved a License 4 and demonstrate highly effective instruction by either exceeding growth on EVAAS scores or receiving exemplary reviews would be eligible to become advanced teachers. They would be required to mentor and observe peers.
  • Advanced Teacher Leader ($72k): Teachers who have been successful in the advanced teacher role, complete a course in adult leadership and take on additional leadership roles in their school or district could attain this level.

The proposal faces many more steps ahead before it can become a reality.

Tomberlin said teachers whose pay does not go up under the new model would be held harmless and receive their previous salary.

“If it were to be implemented, it would be two to three years away from implementation,” said Catherine Truitt, the state's superintendent.

Truitt said she wanted to clear up a misconception about the model she has heard voiced by educators who are concerned about the plan.

“I want to be very clear that this is not a model that ties teacher compensation to test scores,” Truitt said.

She said while EVAAS scores are one of the ways a teacher could demonstrate effectiveness to climb up the ladder, it would not be the only way. Other proposed measures include reviews by principals and students.

PEPSC will continue to iron out the details of the model, and Truitt plans to hold a listening tour to gather feedback from educators before the model would go to a vote by the State Board of Education.

“I think it's critically important that teachers tell us what they like and they don't like about this,” Tomberlin said.

Ultimately, only the North Carolina General Assembly can enact licensing changes into law. Tomberlin said he could not say whether the current model has support from lawmakers.

“I think there's awareness that this is happening,” Tomberlin said. “I couldn't speak to whether they're supportive of it or not.”

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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