The State Board of Education kicked off its two-day monthly meeting on Wednesday with an ambitious agenda. Some of the topics included the teacher evaluation model, a proposal to revamp remediation assessments at community colleges, the sad state of teacher pay, and final approval for 23 of the 25 charter schools that were awarded preliminary charters last August.
One of the two charter schools that was not recommended for final approval by the North Carolina Public Charter School Advisory Council was Cameron Creek Charter School, which NC Policy Watch reporter Sarah Ovaska wrote about for plagiarizing its application for a charter . See her post on that update later today.
Alexis Schauss, director of school business for the NC Department of Public Instruction, presented startling statistics  on the abysmal state of teacher pay in North Carolina. Teacher salaries rank 46th in the nation and 10th in the southeastern states, just ahead of West Virginia and Mississippi. In 2012-13, a teacher with five years of experience has a base pay of $31,2220 – and that’s roughly $4,000 less than in 2008-09.
Teacher pay proved to be an emotionally charged topic. North Carolina Teacher of the Year Darcy Grimes finally raised her voice, saying that she had held back during the meeting because it was such an emotional subject for her. Teachers are tired, she said, and many of the ones she knew were not planning to stay in the profession. It was just too difficult to put food on the table.
Board member John Tate registered his shock, saying “this is a disaster.” State superintendent June Atkinson agreed, saying that the time had come to do something about North Carolina teachers’ salaries. There was no consensus on how to move forward except to agree that a more in-depth conversation on the subject needed to take place soon.
The SBE is joining many other states in considering a shift from placement tests in community colleges to other metrics in order to ensure students do not fall into the remediation trap. The proposed Multiple Measures for Placement Policy  establishes a hierarchy of measures that colleges will use to determine students’ readiness for college-level courses.
Typically, students who wish to attend community colleges are subject to placement tests to determine their academic proficiency in various content areas. Those scoring poorly on these tests are then directed toward a course of remediation, often for no college credit, in order to make them “college ready.” But many states are moving away from using placement tests, which have been found to be ineffective in determining students’ true academic proficiency , and moving toward better indicators of college readiness, including GPA and standardized test scores.
Students who do not have recent standardized test scores or high school transcripts will continue to take placement tests, although the proposal suggests ensuring that students who need remediation undergo more targeted remedial coursework so that they can move more quickly into credit bearing classes.
During a discussion of the pilot teacher evaluation system  we learned that there are some unintended consequences of the formula for evaluating teacher performance and awarding merit pay, or bonuses, on the basis of student growth.
Previously, teachers were evaluated on a combination of both their individual students’ growth as well the growth of all students in the school. This formula was found to lower teachers’ overall rating in low-performing schools, thus serving as a disincentive for good teachers to work in schools with traditionally disadvantaged students.
A proposal  was made to change the formula such that teachers are evaluated solely on the growth of students for which they are responsible. Questions remained about how this change may ultimately inhibit collaboration down the road, as the initial formula was desgined with the idea of encouraging collaboration among teachers.
This version of the teacher evaluation and merit pay pilot program could be eliminated once Race to the Top funds, which fund the model, are exhausted, unless additional funding is found to fund it going forward.
The SBE will conclude the two day meetings today. Voting on final approval of the 23 charter schools, a presentation on Race to the Top, and several other subjects are expected to be discussed.