N.C. education leaders defend plan to revamp teacher licensure

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt (Image from YouTube)

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  • The state's current system prioritizes years of service and credentialing for teachers in determining pay. Top education leaders say a new proposal would revamp that structure, putting more emphasis on performance and provide clear pathways for advancement.
  • Under the new proposal, an apprentice teacher’s salary would start at $30,000 per year, while an advanced teacher’s pay would start at $72,000 per year.

Top education leaders in North Carolina defended a new framework for teacher licensure during a meeting of the State Board of Education on Aug. 4.

State education board Chairman Eric Davis and Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt say that rising teacher shortages and falling enrollments in teaching colleges show that reforms are needed to feed the pipeline of qualified teachers.

“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,” said Davis during the meeting.

“Licensure demonstrates how we value the teaching profession,” he added. “Today, licensure is a too-frequent barrier to teachers entering and staying in the profession. The current licensure system does not contribute to a teacher’s growth and development, but often limits the opportunity for students to have an effective teacher.”

“It’s time to shed legacy thinking and move towards solutions that address the future, not the past,” said Truitt. “The truth is that we are trying to solve for a problem that is bigger than those who are in this profession at the moment. This is a challenge that needs solving in the long term. Recruiting studies show that Gen Z and Millennials want jobs that allow them to advance not by years of experience but by demonstrated outcomes. They want a pathway to advancement and they do not plan to stay in the same job for more than five years at a time. They want mentorship and support.”

The General Assembly created the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission in 2017 to advise lawmakers on teacher licensure and pay reform. PEPSC rolled out an initial draft in April and plans to present a final draft to the state board in September. The plan would then go to the General Assembly for funding approval.

The draft proposal provides a seven-tier system that would put more emphasis on performance and provide clear pathways for advancement, as opposed to the current framework that prioritizes years of service and credentialing. Under the new proposal, an apprentice teacher’s salary would start at $30,000 per year, while an advanced teacher’s pay would start at $72,000 per year.

“In the end, it’s mindboggling that the North Carolina Teacher of the Year makes the same base salary as every other teacher with the same experience and credentials,” said Dr. Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation. “The guarantee of annual experience-based pay increases incentivizes low-performers to remain in the classroom while pushing higher-performing teachers into administrative and non-instructional roles.”

The N.C. Association of Educators has blasted the draft plan. In an Aug. 4 tweet, NCAE president Tamika Walker Kelly said, “The current teaching crisis is not about our licensure system. Chairman Davis (and others) are being incredibly disingenuous by continuing to repeat that to push a deeply disliked plan.”

But Truitt and Davis said during the state board meeting that “misinformation” was being spread about the new plan.

“Most professions have clear career pathways, opportunities for advancement, and opportunities to progressively earn more based on impact,” said Truitt. “We want teachers to have these same opportunities for growth and impact and for pay. They deserve the chance to climb the ladder without having to leave the classroom for administration.”

Davis added, “We believe this initiative will recruit great teachers in increasing numbers and keep them in the classroom, reform the licensure process to eliminate barriers and time delays, and increase levels of professional support and opportunities for advancement for our teachers.”