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State Board of Education expected to take major step toward new compensation and licensure model

Update: The State Board of Education unanimously approved the “Blueprint for Action” on Thursday.

The State Board of Education (SBE) will likely adopt a “Blueprint for Action” on Thursday that could pave the way to dramatically change how North Carolina teachers are compensated and licensed.

On Wednesday, during a board work session, there was little objection to the “Blueprint,” which summarizes the work of the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC) and sets the stage for the state board and General Assembly to take actions needed to move the process along, including making changes to state law.

Amy White

State Board member Amy White did express concern that the proposed model does not spell out what happens when teachers don’t meet educational goals and students are negatively impacted.

“What happens when an educator doesn’t progress?” White asked.

The state Board asked PEPSC more than 18 months ago to look at revisions to the state’s teacher licensure and pay structure. The goal is to design a model that makes the profession more attractive and eliminates barriers to becoming a teacher.

“It’s a combination of trying to address past decisions that have landed heavily on teachers with an archaic system that must change,” said SBE Chairman Eric Davis said. “We understand that we’re going to get criticized for arguing for change, but we’ve got to change it for our students’ sake and our teachers’ sake.”

PEPSC narrowly approved the “Blueprint” earlier this month on a 9-7 vote.

Click here to see the 10 “action” items in the “Blueprint”

It was clear Wednesday that any changes are likely years away. The board is expected to first focus on establishing pilot pay and licensure programs across the state. The idea is to demonstrate proof of concept to sway lawmakers who must approve funding for changes, which would result in higher pay for teachers.

Eric Davis

We’ve got more work to do before we, frankly, know what to ask of the legislature,” Davis said. “But we’re clearly heading toward an ask that would build on our existing authority around licensure but extend that to give us an opportunity to conduct pilots.”

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt hammered home the message that the proposed model would provide teachers with support to help students succeed academically.

“This is a model that is a student-first model when it comes to teacher compensation and licensure because this model is attempting to provide more support for teachers throughout their career than they’ve ever had in this state before,” Truitt said.

Despite the promise of better pay and more support, the licensure and pay proposal hasn’t won over teachers.

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

Parmenter used his Twitter account Wednesday to urge educators to “reach out to State Board members and let them know how you feel they should vote.”

Critics contend the proposal is an unwanted move to a system of merit pay that places too much emphasis on students’ standardized test scores. They argue that a better strategy to recruit and retain teachers — a stated goal of the new proposal — is to pay them a fair wage.

As Policy Watch reported previously, the proposed licensure and pay model would create a system of entry-level certifications to bring more people into the profession. One certification would serve essentially as a learner’s permit. It would allow aspiring educators with associate’s degrees to teach for two years while they earn a bachelor’s degree. Teachers working under that license would receive a base salary of $30,000.

Veteran teachers in leadership roles could earn an advanced teacher license. A National Board Certified Teacher working under that license with a master’s degree and more than 25 years of experience could earn more than $80,000 a year.

North Carolina’s teachers are currently paid based on years of experience. Veteran teachers would be held harmless if they lost pay under the proposal.

Truitt has said the feedback that she’s received about the proposal is mostly grounded in “misinterpretation or misstatements” of fact. She contends the proposal is not a merit pay model.

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State Board of Education expected to take major step toward new compensation and licensure model