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Education

Q&A: What's in the proposal to change how NC teachers are paid and licensed?

A hallway at Davis Drive Elementary in 2020.
Kate Medley
/
For WUNC
A hallway at Davis Drive Elementary in 2020.

State education officials are working on a plan to overhaul how North Carolina teachers are paid and licensed, and they're seeking feedback from teachers on the proposal.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is holding virtual feedback sessions this month with about 300 teachers or teacher-candidates from across the state who were invited by their districts or schools of education.

Two former classroom teachers, Julie Pittman and Maureen Stover, are part of the team at DPI working on this effort. Pittman, who is the assistant to the state superintendent for teacher engagement, is leading the feedback sessions. Stover is the 2020 North Carolina Teacher of the Year and serves on a commission reviewing the plan. They helped answer the following questions.

What are the major features of the plan?

The proposal is an overhaul of the teacher licensing system in North Carolina. Here are a few key changes:

  • The model would eliminate the current pay scale for teachers based on years of experience and instead pay teachers based on their license level.
  • It would create new licenses for teachers starting through alternative routes and paid positions for experienced teachers who mentor other teachers.
  • In order to renew their license or achieve a higher level license, teachers would have to demonstrate their effectiveness through a variety of options. Currently, teachers renew their licenses based on the completion of professional development classes.

"What stands out as a major change is the amount of support that the licensure proposal will give mostly early career teachers, beginning teachers," said Julie Pittman.

Teachers at lower license levels would receive mentoring and support from teachers at the highest levels, who would apply for those roles. Pittman said it would also streamline alternative routes for people to become teachers and remove testing requirements that have been barriers for some.

NC Department of Public Instruction
Here is a preliminary graphic of the licensing model. Pittman said DPI is working on a new graphic to better explain the pathways.

The proposal calls for seven different roles and four licenses. Someone interested in teaching who does not have a degree in education would start at the lowest levels. A beginning teacher with a bachelor's degree in education would start at License 3. Teachers with several years of experience and who demonstrate their effectiveness would be at License 4; most teachers would fall into this category.

What's the overarching goal?

"The overarching goal in in the new licensure model is to help us as teachers grow our profession from within," Pittman said.

"It allows teachers who are veteran teachers who are highly effective teachers be able to help mentor and support, in a more robust way, our early career teachers or even some of our struggling teachers," Pittman said.

"We lose most teachers from the profession between years three and five," Stover said. "That's really where we kind of started with this model, is how do we keep those beginning teachers past year five?"

What does the proposal mean for teacher pay?

State education officials say if the current form of the model passes and is fully funded, it would significantly raise pay for most teachers, and no one would lose salary supplements they currently receive.

The proposed salary for fourth-year teachers who have demonstrated their effectiveness is $56,000. The current base salary for a fourth-year teacher is $38,000.

Proposed teacher pay.JPG
Liz Schlemmer
/
Here is an example of how the proposed pay for a teacher with a bachelor's degree in education would compare to the 2020-2021 state pay scale. The proposed amounts would be if the teacher demonstrates his or her effectiveness in the first three years of teaching and advances to License 4 then successfully renews that license after 5 years.

"That's a significant raise for a teacher in their fourth year of teaching," Pittman said.

The proposed salary for teachers who take on the most advanced roles is $72,000. The state's 2020-2021 pay scale for teachers tops out at $58,240 for teachers with 25 years of experience who have a National Board certification.

Pittman said she's been asked if the new model would continue to give a 12-percent pay increase to teachers who attain that certification and master's degree pay for teachers who are grandfathered into that former state policy. She said the chairs of the compensation committee considering the plan "are adamant that that stay intact."

What questions are teachers asking about this proposal?

"A lot of the questions that we're fielding are around the confusion of what would be used to define effectiveness or growth of a teacher," Pittman said.

While details are still in progress, she said planners are considering a range of options for how teachers can choose to demonstrate their effectiveness.

"It's not just about a test score or evaluation scores, but [rather] there is choice for teachers to be able to make to have the autonomy to show how they are best meeting the needs of their students from year to year," Pittman said.

"Another question I get too is, is this going to ask teachers to do a lot of extra work?" Stover said. "And the answer is no, we're going to ask teachers ... to submit things that they already are doing."

Let's say I'm a veteran teacher up for license renewal and I don't want to apply for an advanced role. How would I renew my license?

"Every teacher is going to demonstrate their ability to teach in a different way, just as the kids in our classrooms demonstrate their mastery of the content in a different way," Stover said.

"We'll build the programs out so that if it's a diagnostic test, they could use that. If it is a portfolio of student work, they could use that," Stover said. "If it's an example from a video, they could use that. If they're working on their National Board certification, and they've already passed it, they could use that."

The plan includes a $5,000 raise every time a teacher successfully completes their Level 4 license renewal every five years.

What about the criticism that this is merit pay?

"It's not merit pay based on the performance of your students. It's merit paid based on your teaching merit," Stover said.

"This will be merit pay, but it's not merit pay, in the way that we've seen it in the past where the merit pay was tied directly to students' standardized test scores," Stover said. "This is pay being compensated for doing a lot of additional work and your merit as an educator and being able to assist other educators."

After all the current planning, couldn't state lawmakers change this proposal before putting it into law?

"I think for anyone who's working on that project, that obviously is a concern for everyone that's kind of in the back of our heads," Stover said.

"While there is that fear that that will happen, I think that our General Assembly understands how important this is for the kids in North Carolina," Stover said.

"What I hope is that we can get enough feedback and input and change and additions made as a direct result of that feedback and input from teachers, that teachers could then get behind parts of this or all of this, and then be able to advocate for it," Pittman said.

Stover said the plan will undergo votes by the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission — on which she serves — and the State Board of Education before it might be presented to the legislature in the 2023 long session.

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