Statesville’s Record & Landmark reports that when McCrory presented his ideas for teacher pay last week to those attending the Greater Statesville Chamber of Commerce annual awards dinner, local education officials in attendance weren’t too keen on his handiwork.

Specifically, McCrory offered three suggestions regarding changing the way teachers are paid in the state: Raising the salary of a teacher with zero to five years of experience from $30,800 to $35,000; tying teacher pay to the market value of the subject taught; and allowing for raises for highly effective teachers to the point that the best classroom teachers could earn as much as a principal.

I-SS Superintendent Brady Johnson said the first two ideas especially could result in hits to teacher morale, and thought that allowing the best teachers to get paid as much as a principal was a novel concept, although it might be difficult to design an evaluation system that makes fair judgments.

On allowing for greater raises to the most effective teachers, Brinkley cautioned that numbers could be skewed toward educators who handle students with fewer issues in their personal lives, and are thus able to perform better at school regardless of who leads the classroom.

And on merit pay, Johnson offered these thoughts:

“Private sector policies or merit-based pay don’t work in public education. We don’t choose the best-skilled students, we take them all,” Brinkley said.

Johnson said he felt that the pay scale should “entice our most effective teachers to stay in the classroom and go into administration.” But, looking at the big picture, he said he thinks teachers just need to feel like their profession is appreciated and respected.

“My personal feeling about teacher pay is this: People that go into public education, they don’t go into it for the money. They know that they’re going into a profession that is never going to pay them their true worth,” Johnson said. “Most teachers would be very satisfied if they just had a livable wage – pay the rent, put food on the table. If we could get teachers to the point where they could make a living doing their calling and not worry about working part-time jobs and how they’re going to pay for their children’s college education, that would be the best thing that we could possibly do.”

Read more about McCrory’s recent teacher pay proposals here and here. And read the full Record & Landmark story here.

Happy Friday, y’all! It actually feels like spring outside, so get outside and enjoy it while it lasts!

If you’re an avid iPad user like me, you may be intrigued to learn that Microsoft finally got its act together and released a version of Office for the iPad. Critics say that it might be too late, however — iPad users have had years to get use to life without Word and have learned to love other products that have taken its place.

Speaking of tech giants, Facebook is trying to figure out how to tinker with drones so that they can deliver internet access from high above. This announcement is the second of two big ones this week: on Tuesday, Facebook also announced its acquisition of Oculus VR, a company that develops virtual reality headsets for gamers.

I thought virtual reality was a popular thing of the 1990s, back when I was a teenager? I did some digging and found proof here.

Are you a Jeopardy fan? More importantly, are you a Jeopardy master? Well in honor of Jeopardy’s 50th birthday, you can play online with 74-time winner Ken Jennings as your host in an interactive video quiz. Jennings is a little smug, so try to ignore that part.

Finally, on a more serious note, a piece of good news from my beloved home state of Maryland. The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation this week to expand protections for transgender individuals, which will mean employers, landlords and other parties will not be able to discriminate against people based on gender identity. Gov. Martin O’Malley says he will sign the law.

United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), a national student labor organization that fights for workers’ rights, launched this week the “TFA Truth Tour,” which they characterize as a campaign to fight back against the corporate robber barons of education reform on college campuses by exposing the truth about Teach for America.

The tour will visit 15 college campuses to educate students who are considering joining Teach for America about how its business model works.

From USAS’ press release:

Imagine your favorite professor. Now imagine that this professor will be replaced by someone who has only been trained for 5 weeks and will only be at your university for two years. They don’t know anything about you, they don’t know anything about the community at your university, and they don’t know anything about your life and how it relates to your capacity to learn. Now imagine that this isn’t happening just to your favorite professor, but to every professor at your university. As you can tell, this is a situation that would devastate and destabilize your university.

That’s what’s happening in K-12 public education. For example, in Chicago the Board of Education slashed the budget for schools and fired teachers, yet increased its financing of TFA from $600,000 to $1.6 million and brought in over 300 TFA corps members. In Newark, the superintendent, an TFA alumnus, is likely to fire 700 teachers and replace most of them with TFA corps members. But as one study noted, TFA “is best understood as a weak Band-Aid that sometimes provides some benefits but that is recurrently and systematically ripped away and replaced.”

In order to operate, TFA depends on its partnerships with universities to get corps members certified to teach in each state. While teaching, corps members must attend classes at a university, which in some programs can lead to a master’s degree. In effect, TFA uses our universities’ names to make up for its own weak training programs and convince state boards of education that its members are “highly qualified” to teach.

But students are refusing to allow this to happen any longer. We are joining together with parents, teachers, and TFA alumni to expose the truth about TFA.

At a TFA Truth Tour stop at the University of Pennsylvania, half the room was filled with students considering TFA:

“I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve head of students at schools being told, ‘If you get a job offer from Goldman Sachs you can defer that offer and still do Teach for America and then carry on with your real career,’” said Jan Van Tol, a national organizer with USAS. “That runs counter to what we believe, which is that teachers should be well-trained, well-educated professionals. Teaching is not a hobby you just do for two years.”

Last year, North Carolina’s lawmakers decided to ditch the renowned NC Teaching Fellows program and instead funnel more money to Teach for America.

The NC Teaching Fellows program awarded $6,500/year scholarships for tuition at an in state college to North Carolina high school students interested in teaching. In return, students were required to teach for four years in North Carolina after graduation. The highly regarded program had high retention rates, with 75 percent of Teaching Fellows continuing to teach into their fifth year, whereas Teach for America’s retention rates are poor: only 28 percent of TFA teachers remain in public schools beyond five years, compared with 50 percent of non-TFA teachers.

GTNThis summer, approximately 450 teachers in North Carolina could receive $10,000 bonuses if they are selected for the Governor’s Teacher Network (GTN), a federally funded initiative that will ask teachers to share their best work around instruction and professional development in exchange for a pay bump.

Gov. Pat McCrory, along with the NC Department of Public Instruction, established GTN with funds from the federal Race to the Top grant. Teachers who apply and are selected to participate in GTN will serve for one year as Race to the Top-aligned instructional and professional development experts, in addition to their normal teaching duties.

Applicants are expected to submit project proposals, which could include developing professional development sessions and materials, or creating unit plans, lesson plans and assessments for the state’s Home Base system, a suite of web-based technology tools designed to elevate teaching.

“The Governor’s Teacher Network is a fantastic opportunity for teacher leaders to offer their very best thinking and expertise to support their peers across the state,” said Gov. McCrory in a press release. “Their work will directly result in North Carolina teachers having access to more resources that will help them help students achieve at greater levels.  Best of all, these resources will be designed for NC teachers, by NC teachers.”

The proposal sounds similar to a plan McCrory floated last summer, when he announced his intention to use $30 million of Race to the Top funds for an Education Innovation Fund that would reward 1,000 top teachers with $10,000 stipends. That proposal was met with criticism by State Board of Education members at a meeting shortly after his announcement. Read More

Steve Ford, former editorial page editor for the News & Observer, breaks down the latest statistics from the National Education Association on state level public education financing in today’s NC Policy Watch column, “Crossroads for Teacher Pay.” North Carolina still ranks pretty low in NEA’s survey, sitting at 46th in the nation in teacher pay for the second year in a row.

Here’s the overall picture, drawn from census and budget statistics: North Carolina shapes up as a state with below-average wealth, below-average overall levels of taxation and below-average revenues committed to the schools.

Of particular concern to teachers, and of particular importance as a factor in school quality, is the state’s teacher salary structure. The NEA’s survey confirmed that during the 2012-13 school year, the latest comparison available, North Carolina continued to rank toward the back of the pack. Its average teacher pay was $45,737, or 46th in the country and $10,366 below the national average.

And while state-level funding per pupil looks good for North Carolina at first glance, remember that localities don’t pay into their local school systems to the same degree as their counterparts in other states — it’s incumbent on the state to fund the majority of the state’s local school budgets. Combined state and local level funding per pupil actually puts North Carolina at the bottom — 48th in the nation, just above Tennessee, Arizona and Idaho.

Read Ford’s full analysis here.