NC board backs slower effort on teacher license, pay changes

December 1, 2022 GMT

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s State Board of Education backed on Thursday an incremental approach to advance a potential teacher licensure overhaul that would include higher instructor pay based on performance rather than years of experience.

The board voted with no opposition for a motion that in part envisions piloting or testing a new license and performance program before it could potentially be carried out statewide, media outlets reported.

It ultimately would take the General Assembly’s formal approval in legislation to move the idea forward and provide short- and long-term funding. A board leader said creating pilots in certain school districts could go a long way for a statewide remake of licensing to become a success.

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, board Chairman Eric Davis said Wednesday during extended discussion on the proposal.

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The state’s Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Committee has been looking since last year at how to redo a licensure system that critics say is failing to retain veteran teachers and improve student learning substantially.

Thursday’s motion asked the committee to come up by March with proposed policies or rules needed to implement pilot programs or testing for several elements within a broader “Blueprint for Action” that the committee supported narrowly last month. The General Assembly convenes in January and likely will remain in Raleigh until early summer.

A draft statewide plan considered by the committee this year would switch from a pay system for licensed teachers largely based on experience to one based on different types of licenses.

Teachers could move to more advanced licenses — and commensurate pay increases — by proving their effectiveness through student test scores, principal reviews or student surveys, among other tools.

The current base teacher salary schedule ranges from $37,000 to $54,000. Authors of the multi-tiered license system envision salaries from $30,000 for apprentice teachers to a minimum of $56,000 for “expert teachers.”

The proposal also would seek 1% annual experience raises; annual stipends of $5,000 or $10,000 for advanced teachers taking on additional duties; and the full restoration of higher pay for teachers with master’s degrees.

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Teachers currently reach the top of the base salary ladder at 25 years of experience.

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

Some educators wary of the proposal have said it will lead teachers to quit the profession rather than remain. Others say any effort isn’t yet ready because evaluation methods for most teachers have yet to be finalized. It’s also unclear what happens to teachers who don’t meet performance standards.

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Leah Carper, this year’s state teacher of the year and a board adviser, said Wednesday that some colleagues worry that legislators could only approve a portion of the licensure overhaul such as requiring more consequential evaluations, but not the higher pay.

But Davis said pursuing a pilot first could make a better argument for legislators not to create a piecemeal program.