While North Carolina’s state legislators settle in for a two month break from the exhausting business of not negotiating a state budget, educators across the state are hard at work serving this year’s students on last year’s salary.
To be clear, the General Assembly did pass a bill which would have increased some educator salaries, but it was so insulting that Governor Cooper vetoed it and asked them to do better. That bill would have given no raise to teachers in years 0-15 and just $50 a month more to the majority of experienced teachers teachers at 16 years and up. Our schools’ non-certified staff–custodians, cafeteria employees, instructional assistants, etc.–would have fared even worse under the bill, with paychecks going up less than $20 a month in most cases.
Lawmakers also passed another massive corporate tax cut, though, one which would have taken a billion dollars in revenue off the table over the next 5 years. Thank God for that gubernatorial veto.
Despite our legislature’s failure on teacher salary, there will be some sizable direct deposits made to teacher accounts in the new year. Because they are paid by recurring funds, bonuses for standardized test scores are still on for school year 2019-2020.
After Read to Achieve failed to move the needle on student reading achievement, Phil Berger and company rolled out bonuses in 2016, thinking the promise of higher pay might lead to higher test scores. Apparently the theory was teachers were holding back their best teaching ideas and waiting for just the right moment to use them.
Bonuses are paid to the top 25% according to EVAAS scores, and in some cases can reach as high as $9,000 for individual teachers. This year a total of almost $39 million will be spent on the financial incentives.
What are we getting for that money?
According to EOG proficiency scores, third grade reading achievement is actually worse off now than it was before the General Assembly started waving the carrot:
North Carolina’s third grade reading data is consistent with the findings of Award-winning Harvard economist Roland Fryer, who set out to learn whether the New York City Department of Education’s bonuses actually led to better outcomes for students. Fryer’s research determined that it didn’t. Not only that, the practice of dangling money in front of teachers may have made things worse, by encouraging teaching to the test and damaging the collaboration so necessary for healthy school culture:
“I find no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance, or graduation, nor do I find any evidence that the incentives change student or teacher behavior. If anything, teacher incentives may decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools.”
North Carolina’s bonus scheme hasn’t worked so far, and I highly doubt this is the year it finally clicks. Perhaps instead of continuing to waste taxpayer dollars in this manner we should use that $39 million to hire some school counselors, social workers, nurses and psychologists and make a real difference in the lives of North Carolina’s children.