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Citing ‘teaching crisis,’ state education leaders back new licensure and compensation plan

North Carolina teachers marched for better pay.

The state has a “teaching crisis” and must revamp its licensing and compensation system to recruit and retain quality teachers, Eric Davis, the chairman of the State Board of Education, said Thursday.

Davis noted that teacher vacancies throughout North Carolina are “soaring” while enrollment in “colleges of education has fallen over the last few years.”

“In short, our state is in a teaching crisis that’s having a significant, negative impact on today’s students, and if not corrected will damage our state for generations to come,” Davis said.

The chairman brushed back claims that the proposal is a backdoor attempt to implement an unwanted system of merit pay for teachers.

Eric Davis

“There’s simply not enough tested subjects to base compensation on student testing,” Davis said. “However, there are countless teachers in all years of experience across our state who today are creating positive outcomes for their students and who are not being sufficiently recognized, learned from or rewarded for their great work.”

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt joined Davis on Thursday to offer a full-throated endorsement of the proposed changes she contends will allow teachers to advance in their careers and be rewarded and recognized for improving academic outcomes for students.

Catherine Truitt

“They [teachers] deserve the chance to climb the ladder without having to leave the classroom for administration,” Truitt said.

A day after Davis and Truitt made their remarks, the N.C. Association of  Educators announced that it will hold a press conference Tuesday at 10 a.m., on Halifax Mall to push back against changes the organization says would replace an experienced-based pay system for “untested methods” that heavily rely on standardized test scores, peer evaluations and student surveys to determine whether teachers keep their licenses.

Here is what the NCAE said about the proposal in a press release:

“Decades of defunding public education and cutting teacher pay have long forced experienced teachers out of the profession, and the pandemic exacerbated the staffing crisis, with some districts reporting hundreds of resignations. The proposed changes do nothing to get at the root of the cause of low recruitment and retention numbers. Instead, it lowers the standards to become a teacher disguised as increasing pathways to enter the profession, a risky gamble for our state’s important investment: our students.”

In addition to revising how teachers are paid, the new proposal would create a system of entry-level certifications with the goal of bringing more people into the profession. One certification under the plan would serve essentially as a learner’s permit, that would allow aspiring educators with associate degrees to teach for two years while they earn a bachelor’s degree.

The new model creates multiple steps at which educators can advance in the profession, including “expert” and “advanced” teaching roles that allow them to earn higher pay for taking on additional responsibilities such as coaching novice teachers.

Truitt has said that it’s wrong to label the proposal “merit pay.”

“We’re trying to address the ongoing, pervasive challenge that many teachers feel that they do all of this extra work, which is tantamount to volunteer work that they’re not compensated for,” the superintendent said in April during a State Board of Education meeting.

Davis’ and Truitt’s defense of the controversial proposal was quickly criticized on social media on Thursday.

“The current teaching crisis is not about our licensure system,” tweeted NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly. “Chairman “[Eric] Davis (and others) are being incredibly disingenuous by continuing to repeat that to push a deeply disliked plan. #nced”

The Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC) presented a draft proposal of the new system — labeled “North Carolina Pathways to Excellence for Teaching Professionals” — to the State Board of Education in April. If the proposal is approved and implemented, standardized tests, principal and peer evaluations, and student surveys would be used to determine whether a teacher is effective.

The State Board is expected to consider the changes in the fall. Davis said that whatever is approved then is unlikely to be the final version of the plan. He believes the new method will be continuously revised and updated as more feedback is received from educators and other stakeholders. Davis urged teachers to email [email protected] to share their feedback.

As Policy Watch previously reported, Justin Parmenter, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg middle school teacher and education policy commentator who writes at the website at Notes from the Chalkboard, has taken on a leading position in pushing back against the new licensing and compensation model.

Parmenter said in a Facebook post that Truitt was being disingenuous Thursday when she claimed that the process that produced the draft licensure and compensation plan has been thorough and open.

“Are you serious right now?” Parmenter wrote in the post. “I’m so glad to hear Truitt has had a complete change of heart since March, when she wanted to dissuade EdNC’s editor Mebane Rash from surveying educators.  Or April, when she “wanted to squash outside focus groups and surveys.” Or May, when she told people in a private meeting that the proposal was too far down the road for significant changes.”

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Citing ‘teaching crisis,’ state education leaders back new licensure and compensation plan