Op-Ed: N.C. Must Invest to Magnify Great Teachers’ Impact

by | May 11, 2015

“North Carolina will never make the educational strides it needs until the best educators have far greater impact for a lot more pay,” say Public Impact®‘s co-directors in an op-ed in Saturday’s Raleigh News and Observer.

Noting that the state’s General Assembly “rightfully added 6 percent focused primarily on early-career teachers’ base pay,” Bryan C. Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel point out that other states also increased salaries for teachers, and likely will again. So, they say, state leaders must complete the 10 percent average raise, and then some, just to stay on par in the region.

“Meanwhile, the pay gap with neighboring states yawns wider for experienced teachers,” the Hassels write. “Most importantly, base pay bumps for early-career teachers don’t empower or entice excellent teachers, many of whom are veterans, to lead from the classroom – reaching more students and helping peers excel.”

But North Carolina could change that, and lead the region in the process. They write:

“State leaders can transform N.C. by funding several diverse districts to design financially sustainable, scalable, advanced pay systems that reward excellent teachers for extending their reach, and all teachers for collaborating with them.

Districts should design systems that fit their needs. But state policymakers need to pinpoint the destination.

To see why, look no further than the responses of 76 districts to last year’s differentiated pay legislation.

Just 21 plans include advanced roles. Among those, only 14 stated how much more teachers could earn; the median maximum supplement proposed is just $1,000.

Most tellingly: Only two proposed giving more students access to excellent teachers. No district explained how its plan would be scalable districtwide, much less statewide, within recurring budgets.

Policymakers can elicit much stronger plans with three guideposts:

  • Set state goals to ensure payoffs for teachers, students and the economy. First, demand that at least 75 percent of students gain access to excellent teachers who are accountable for their learning. Second require supplements substantial enough to affect recruiting and retention – $5,000 to $25,000, or more – for great teachers who take accountability for more students and lead peers. Third, require districts to give teachers time at school to plan and improve, giving everyone a shot at excellence.
  • Make local control really local. Eliminate the state’s large financial penalty when schools swap positions to fund advanced roles, so that teachers and principals in each school can reallocate budgets to fund higher pay. Let educators create supplements for great teachers who reach more students – and those who join their teams.
  • Fund temporary transition costs, not temporary pay. Schools can fund substantial pay for advanced roles by reallocating regular budgets. In contrast, the federal Teacher Incentive Fund demonstrates that when districts are given temporary funds for compensation, advanced pay disappears when grants end. Temporary pay supplements signal that teaching excellence is expendable.

If the state spent $200 million over 10 years to pay teachers supplements, each teacher would gain less than $200 annually for a limited time. Instead, the state could spend less helping districts reallocate current funds using school models that potentially pay all teachers more – and pay teacher-leaders supplements of $5,000 to $25,000 – in perpetuity.”

Read the full op-ed here. For more information about districts that already are extending the reach of their great teachers and the teams they lead, for more pay, within regular school budgets–and without forcing class-size increases, see here. And watch what teachers say about these jobs here.

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