Human Capital Roundtable member privately blasted NC teacher merit pay plan as “undercooked goulash”

A member of the shadowy group which drafted the controversial North Carolina teacher merit pay proposal blasted the plan in a private email to a colleague last year, calling out numerous flaws with the approach and deeming it “undercooked goulash.”

The document is noteworthy because the Human Capital Roundtable (HCR) has closely followed its marketing firm’s advice to “always speak about the plan in a positive manner” when members have commented on the controversial Pathways to Excellence scheme.

The refreshingly candid email was written in July 2021, a few months after PEPSC subcommittees took over work on the Human Capital Roundtable’s merit pay proposal.

At that point the HCR had shifted into marketing mode and begun assembling a “dream team” called the UpliftEd Coalition which was intended to drum up public support for making North Carolina the first state in the country to move all teachers to merit pay instead of compensating them based on years of experience.

In the email, the HCR member, who shall remain nameless, blasted the project as “undercooked goulash” and identified a variety of problems with the project, including:

➢ Unlikely that larger salaries and professional development will be funded

➢ Reduces rigor in teacher preparation

➢ Failed to adequately involve traditional classroom teachers and district personnel in design

This individual’s concerns mirror those which have since been voiced by many, including lots of classroom teachers and district personnel.

Despite the overwhelmingly negative feedback, the PEPSC Commission (kind of) voted 9-7 last month to advance a broad framework to the State Board of Education which would clear the way for the still-undercooked goulash to be officially considered.

The email was recently obtained via public records request, and you can read it below:


Initial North Carolina teacher merit pay vote reveals sharp differences over path forward

This week North Carolina took the first step toward moving all teachers from a pay scale that rewards long term commitment to a career in public education to one which compensates teachers based on measures like standardized test results and student surveys.

In a 9-7* vote, the PEPSC Commission approved a motion to send the below “Blueprint for Action” to the State Board of Education, a procedural step which must precede consideration of the deeply unpopular Pathways to Excellence merit pay proposal.

(*asterisk because the legitimacy of the vote is questionable. Read on to find out why.)


Here’s how the vote broke down:

Like pretty much everything else in this torturous saga, the vote was a complete 💩 show.

The initial vote ended in a 7-7 tie. Then two members (Sam Houston and Michael Maher) who had left the virtual meeting were called back in to vote, but no mention was made of attempting to reach a third member (Anthony Graham) who had also left the meeting.

Both individuals who returned to the meeting voted yes.

Elon University College of Education Dean Dr. Ann Bullock asked State Board attorney Allison Schaefer if it was proper to call people to return to the meeting to vote. Schaefer said that since Houston was having technical difficulties it was acceptable.

She did not explain why Maher’s vote counted or comment on Dr. Graham’s absence.

You can listen to the voting portion of the meeting here:

Any way you slice it, the vote shows serious differences of opinion among constituent groups. On one hand we have some deans of Colleges of Education (including PEPSC Chair Dr. Van Dempsey) voting to move forward with a proposal which would make the kind of thorough teacher preparation they specialize in completely optional. On the other we have Dean Bullock from Elon University saying no, this isn’t the way (and again, it’s not clear how Winston Salem State’s Dr. Graham feels since he did not vote).

As for the teacher view, two teachers voted yes on the proposal to advance the merit pay framework, but neither is currently working with students in a classroom. Guilford County’s Leah Carper is on sabbatical as NC Teacher of the Year, and Madison Edwards works at NC Cyber Academy, a virtual charter school. The only current classroom teacher on the PEPSC Commission is Chatham Central High School’s Eric Patin. Patin did not attend the 9 AM meeting (presumably because as a practicing classroom teacher he was teaching his students).

Fortunately PEPSC did have plenty of feedback from current classroom teachers to consider, although it did not come up in the approximately 180 minutes of discussion that preceded the vote.

Attached to the PEPSC agenda on the State Board of Education website is a document containing 59 pages of feedback for PEPSC just from the month of October. Most of it is from teachers. Some crafty individual at DPI chose to position one of the only pro-merit pay messages at the top of this document, but nearly all of the feedback calls on the PEPSC Commission to reject the switch to merit pay:

The PEPSC Commission now has to await the green light from the State Board of Education and the General Assembly before moving the Pathways to Excellence proposal itself.

In the meantime, if you’d like to thank those who voted NO on merit pay you can find their contact information here: