Last month’s release of a proposal to move educators to merit pay has not been particularly well received by North Carolina teachers.
And who can blame us?
We’ve borne the brunt of more than a decade of General Assembly policy that has made a career in public education in North Carolina deeply unappealing. We’ve endured a two year pandemic which upended teaching and learning and spawned a massive teacher shortage that has vastly increased the burden on those of us who have chosen to stay.
We are long overdue for some good news.
So you’ll forgive North Carolina’s teachers for being a little grumpy at the prospect of having our pay and career advancement opportunities based on effectiveness measures that are subjective or hold teachers responsible for factors beyond their control:
➢ Standardized test scores
➢ Principal evaluations
➢ Peer evaluations
➢ Student surveys
That grumpiness has translated to a whole lot of negative feedback being provided to members of the State Board of Education who will ultimately decide on the proposal as well as to members of the committees currently working on the draft.
One of those members happens to be State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, leader of the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Truitt sits on the State Board of Education as well as the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC) overseeing this work.
When teacher outrage about the plan erupted, Superintendent Truitt’s initial response was to deny the proposal was merit pay at all. At the April 6 meeting of the State Board of Education, Truitt absurdly claimed that since the plan offers multiple ways to demonstrate effectiveness it can’t be considered merit pay.
But last week DPI’s Dr. Tom Tomberlin disagreed.
Dr. Tomberlin serves as DPI’s Director of Educator Recruitment and Support. He sits on all four PEPSC subcommittees and directs their work, and he has shaped the licensure and compensation model more than any other individual.
Tomberlin apparently decided it was time for DPI to stop denying the obvious:
Tomberlin then went on to say the group needed to better explain how this version of merit pay differs from its past iterations in our state. He said the difference is that, in the past, merit pay has been used more narrowly to award bonuses, but this proposal would change the whole organizational structure.
In other words, Tomberlin seemed to be saying, the difference is that this time merit pay will be the entire foundation of how we compensate teachers and determine their career trajectories.
And that’s supposed to make teachers feel better about this plan?
Now that we’ve established that the proposal is indeed merit pay, it’s time for an honest and transparent conversation about whether it’s possible for a system of merit pay to be equitable to teachers.
We also need to talk about how enacting a flawed licensure and compensation system in the middle of a pandemic and during the worst public school staffing crisis in recent memory would impact our teacher pipeline and our ability to put an excellent educator in every classroom.
That is our goal, right?
You can view the entire April 27 meeting of PEPSC subcommittee co-chairs below: