A recent op-ed in the New York Times discusses the importance of paying teachers well. North Carolina should heed some of the suggestions made by the authors. In order to make teaching an attractive option for recent college graduates, it must not seem like a low-paying, high-stress job. Rather, it has to be a career where they are well-compensated for being caretakers of the state’s students. Teaching needs to be professionalized rather than marginalized. We are not going to do that with meager salaries, larger student to teacher ratios and no teacher assistants. Thus far, it appears that closing a budget gap is more important than opening a child’s mind.
We are also not going to professionalize the occupation by using students’ test scores as the primary measure of instructional success. We ask teachers to make students better citizens who are prepared for college and employment but that cannot be done if all of the teacher’s (and student’s) worth is tied up in a test score.
Teaching will not be professionalized in the state if traditional public school teachers all have to be college graduates with teaching certification while public charter schools only require 75% of their elementary school teachers to be certified and a mere 50% of middle school and high school teachers need to be certified. The only teachers that must possess college degrees in a public charter school are those who teach core courses in sixth through twelve grades. Different standards are not going to professionalize teaching.
We are fortunate to have great teachers in North Carolina including Zebetta King and Amanda Northrup who are 2010 Awardees for The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. North Carolina has true teaching professionals. We will not elevate teaching to the point where we can recruit and retain the best and brightest until we make it a true profession.