Member of NC committee working on merit pay proposal urges colleagues to listen to teachers and adjust based on feedback

Teacher Appreciation Week starts today, but this North Carolina teacher would like to direct some appreciation to Dr. Westley Wood.

Dr. Wood’s day job is Assistant Superintendent for Personnel and Human Resources for Wilkes County Schools, but he also serves on the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC).

PEPSC is the group currently working on a proposal to scrap North Carolina’s experience-based teacher pay scale for a merit pay system that would compensate educators based on effectiveness measures such as standardized test results, principal evaluations, and student surveys.

Last week members of the PEPSC commission, subcommittee co-chairs and Department of Public Instruction (DPI) staff met to discuss the draft proposal.

DPI’s Director of Educator Recruitment Tom Tomberlin had just finished explaining that he was putting together a video to be shown at sessions of an upcoming teacher listening tour so there would be “completely consistent” messaging. (As an aside here, I’d like to note the fact that Tomberlin sees messaging as a primary focus of these sessions raises important questions about whether DPI intends to hold a listening tour or a marketing tour.)

After listening to his colleagues talk about teacher feedback collection, Dr. Wood spoke up:

“I think we as the PEPSC commission have got to listen to the feedback and take action as needed from the response of our teachers. They’re the ones impacted, in their eyes, the most at this time by this model, and we’ve got to listen and adjust and take action based on feedback we get, whether it’s positive or negative.

Dr. Wood is right that North Carolina’s teachers will be heavily impacted by any overhaul of licensure and compensation. We are also best positioned to shine a light on exactly how implementation of a merit pay system would play out at the school level. Our concerns should not be condescendingly shrugged off as “misconceptions.” Our feedback should be solicited in good faith and used in decision making.

But let’s not forget who is ultimately most impacted by North Carolina’s leaky teacher pipeline: It’s the students who have the constitutional right to excellent teachers.

If we enact a sweeping merit pay system based on subjective and inaccurate measures and throw open the classroom doors to unprepared teachers, our pipeline crisis is going to get worse.

And, as usual, North Carolina’s children will lose the most.

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(You can listen to the entire PEPSC meeting below. The section with Dr. Tomberlin starts at approximately 48:00)

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