No system of public education can thrive without a high-quality teacher work force. The problem is that state education bureaucracies enforce rules and regulations that fail to distinguish excellent teachers from poor ones. Indeed, a large body of research shows that certification status, advanced degrees, years of experience, education school courses, and teacher test scores are unreliable indicators of teacher quality.
Our continued use of an experience- and credential based teacher salary schedule means, for example, that some superb educators are making less money than mediocre ones, simply because they have fewer years of experience, lack an advanced degree, or failed to obtain a specialized certification. That system does little to encourage our best public school teachers to stay in the classroom. Across-the-board salary and benefits increases may attract qualified candidates to North Carolina, but targeted increases are a much better long-term strategy for improving quality.
That said, the state’s capacity to recruit and retain teachers depends on more than just compensation. Educators choose to teach in (or leave) North Carolina for any number of personal and professional reasons. It is equally important for lawmakers to ensure that the state maintains a low cost of living, strong economy, and superior quality of life.
- During the 2015-16 school year, North Carolina public school districts employed over 94,400 full-time teachers, and well over 90 percent of them were fully licensed by the state.
- Nearly 30 percent of North Carolina teachers earned an advanced degree, and around 22 percent obtained National Board Certification.
- According to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, between 1994-95 and 2015-16, teacher pay has increased 126.5 percent. This outpaced the 54.3 percent increase for state employee salaries and the 64.3 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index.
- According to the state salary schedule for the 2015-2016 school year, teachers on the typical 10-month contract had a base salary range of $35,000 to $ $63,530.
- In addition to their state-mandated base salary, most teachers receive an annual salary supplement from their local school district. The average salary supplement was nearly $3,900 per teacher in 2016. Seven school districts provide no local salary supplement. Wake County Schools offered the state’s largest average supplement at nearly $7,000 per teacher.
- For the 2016-2017 school year, the average base teacher salary was $45,970. Matching benefits for teachers add 7.65 percent for Social Security, 16.12 percent for retirement, and $5,471 for hospitalization to their base salary. To put a value to the benefits package, the average teacher receives approximately $16,400 in annual Social Security, retirement, and hospitalization benefits.
- Between 2010 and 2015, 10,380 out-of-state teachers received North Carolina teaching licenses and were employed as classroom teachers in North Carolina public schools the following school year. During the same period, 3,222 teachers reported that they left North Carolina to teach in another state. The net gain for the state was over 7,100 teachers.
- According to the 2015 Annual Report on Teachers Leaving the Profession, the teacher turnover rate for the state’s 115 school districts was 14.84 percent. The rate includes teachers who retired, resigned to teach in another North Carolina public school, or resigned due to personal circumstances. The most recent attrition rate reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which includes both leavers and movers, was 15.8 percent.
- Broaden the teacher applicant pool by loosening or eliminating certification and licensure requirements. Although the state puts a premium on licensure, advanced degrees, and National Board Certification, there is little evidence that these factors guarantee good teachers or raise student performance.
- Evaluate teachers using the most accurate and objective measures possible. North Carolina’s public schools calculate and record value-added scores for teachers in a computer system called EVAAS (Education Value Added Assessment System). Research suggests that value-added analysis is the most accurate teacher evaluation tool available.
- Implement a comprehensive merit and incentive pay system that will pay a portion of teachers’ salary based on the value that they add to their students’ learning. North Carolina’s salary schedule is based on years of experience and credentials, neither of which are sound indicators of teacher quality.
- Improve the quality of education school graduates by raising program admissions standards, increasing subject-area course requirements, and providing rigorous instruction in research-based teaching methods. If the University of North Carolina System refuses to reform schools of education voluntarily, sweeping legislative action may be required.