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State Board of Education scales back teacher licensing and pay plan to a pilot project

Matt Ramey

The State Board of Education voted today to recommend that a state education commission design a pilot project to test a revised system for licensing teachers before seeking to expand it statewide.

The Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC) has for months been working on a draft plan to overhaul how all North Carolina teachers are licensed and paid, and that plan has faced pushback from educators.

Today’s vote effectively slows the process of redesigning the licensure model statewide to focus on creating a pilot project in a limited number of schools or districts.

Board Chair Eric Davis told WUNC today's vote will be one step in a multi-year process.

“We're not even close to implementation, because we want to be thoughtful about how we develop this,” Davis said. “We want to gather additional input and feedback from districts and teachers and other constituents and prove that this model works before we get to broad scale implementation.”

Supporters say the ultimate goal of revamping licensure is to improve teacher recruitment and retention. The plan seeks to simplify the licensing process, better support beginning teachers and develop higher paying tiers for teachers to advance their careers by mentoring others. The draft plan also sought to raise teacher pay across the board.

“This model is trying to correct many deficiencies in an overly complicated, burdensome licensure process that only looks at teacher compensation from a statewide perspective based on years of experience,” said State Superintendent Catherine Truitt.

The draft plan has been controversial among teachers because it would also base their pay on meeting certain metrics, rather than on years of service. Critics have raised concerns about how teachers can be fairly evaluated for their effectiveness and which metrics would be tied to pay. The North Carolina Association of Educators has come out against the draft plan calling it “merit pay.”

The State Board of Education announced Wednesday Davis and board member Jill Camnitz will form a committee to work with the state superintendent and PEPSC on drafting a pilot program. The motion the board passed also directs its attorney to identify any laws or policies that would need to be changed to continue work on a new licensing model.

Board members also discussed the need for better communication with the public about the plan. Board member James Ford called for clarification on how the new licensing plan differs from the current model. North Carolina Teacher of the Year Leah Carper suggested the commission work on a document to answer teachers’ questions about the proposal, because teachers have told her the most recent draft is confusing.

“The proposal, it’s not readable for most teachers,” Carper said. “It's really difficult to comprehend what it is.”

Earlier this fall, Truitt had encouraged the PEPSC commission to complete work on that larger-scale draft plan in time to send it to the State Board of Education for approval so the board could make a request to the General Assembly early next year.

“I would have loved for us two months ago to be in a situation where we could be going back to PEPSC saying, ‘Could you please develop these things with more specificity now?’” Truitt said. “But at the end of the day, I'm incredibly happy that we will have a request to go to the General Assembly.”

Truitt said she hopes to send a funding request for a pilot program to the General Assembly during their next session. Ultimately, state lawmakers will be responsible for enacting and funding any changes to teacher pay or licensure.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email: lschlemmer@wunc.org