by Dr. Robert Luebke
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Last week, the State Board of Education approved a resolution to move ahead with a framework to create a new way to license and pay teachers. Currently teachers are paid based on their years of experience. The new system proposes to tie salary to levels of licensure. It also provides teachers with other pathways to earn additional dollars such as supervising or assisting with extracurricular activities or mentoring younger teachers.
The framework is part of the work of the Professional Educators Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC). PEPSC was created to make recommendations to the State Board of Education (SBE) regarding all aspects of teacher preparation, licensure, and professional standards. PEPSC began meeting in 2017. The work of the Commission is supported by Superintendent Catherine Truitt and business groups. Why did SBE vote to only adopt a framework? Officials learned that for the state to move forward with large changes regarding licensure and teacher pay, other regulations and statutes will need to be changed.
Is the PEPSC framework a good one? First, let’s acknowledge North Carolina needs new ways to pay teachers and license teachers. These have been problems for years and have only been exacerbated by changes in the last few years. I’m encouraged these difficulties are getting the attention they deserve, but big issues remain.
It seems that the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction got a little over its skis when it formed a commission to overhaul teacher pay and licensure. Government lawyers soon found out the PEPSC Commission lacked the authority to do so.
PEPSC wants to offer new paths for teacher licensure. That’s fine and good. Current licensure efforts, however, do nothing to address one of the biggest licensure problems: licensure backlogs at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Will a plan to overhaul the whole process merely overwhelm an inadequate system?
Support for the PEPSC proposal and framework remains spotty. State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, Best NC and a variety of business interests support these efforts. Other teacher professional organizations like the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) have been vocal in their opposition. NCAE claims the pay plan to replace the current salary schedule amounts to merit pay, a policy the organization strongly opposes.
There are compelling reasons to move away from a pay system based largely on years of experience. l) to a plan based on teacher quality and teacher effectiveness. Many teachers favor such proposals. They just don’t seem to be in North Carolina. The lack of support from teachers is troubling.
One reason for the lack of support from teachers may be because the formal process for how to evaluate teachers has not been finalized. The new model will likely have principal and peer evaluations, some component of student assessment along with a measure of student growth. Currently, part of a teachers’ evaluation involves using the EVAAS System (Education Value Added Assessment System). EVAAS attempts to quantify a teacher’s contribution to student learning. The EVAAS system however has been criticized for lack of transparency and because not all teachers have classes that EVAAS can use to help generate scores.
PEPSC is established in part to move away from a system that pays teachers based largely on experience. A in a new system teacher pay will be a function of licensure level and involvement in other pathways While total pay may be based on licensure and pathways base salary in the new plan is still largely determined by years of experience.
One final objection to the PEPSC framework is that the plan lacks any reference to cost. This is not a small consideration. Last year, North Carolina spent over $10 billion on public education. Most of these funds were for employee salaries and benefits. The PEPSC plan overhauls licensure and teacher pay. As such, it would have a significant impact on education costs, yet no estimates are provided.
The PEPSC framework has value. It correctly diagnoses. an important problem but comes with significant shortcomings. The desire to pilot test final licensure and pay proposals will slow walk these proposals. Considering the many problems which need attention, that may be one of the plan’s best provisions.