1 year later, NC teacher pipeline fixes are still as easy as ABC

Last year when the PEPSC/SREB licensure proposal was first unveiled, I wrote a solution-oriented alternative to what I believed would more effectively address the NC teacher pipeline issue. You can read the original post here. If you haven’t been following this issue for the last year, I encourage you to read the original post first for context.

The premise of the PEPSC/SREB proposal is based on a belief that the source of the NC teacher pipeline issue is the licensure process (though that process is similar to the process in nearly every other state).

Source: https://www.sreb.org/sites/main/files/file-attachments/feb_sbehandouts.pdf?1612301422

I contend (along with other current classroom teachers who have watched their colleagues leave and know why they left, or why their students don’t want to become teachers in NC) that our teacher pipeline issue is sourced in a dismantling of policies and pay that once supported a healthy pipeline of qualified teachers.

Barriers to entry include the following:

  1. Cuts to NC Teaching Fellows that supported high school students in pursuing education degrees
  2. Over 7,000 Teaching Assistants cut, reducing the paraprofessional to professional pipeline
  3. Wages below market pay offered for roles requiring similar credentials
  4. First state to eliminate Master’s degree pay harming recruitment of out-of-state candidates
  5. Elimination of state health insurance in retirement for new hires as of January 2021
  6. Salary schedule annually subjected to politics
  7. Student teachers pay to receive practical experience

Barriers to retention include:

  1. NC education policy is dominated by non-educators and educators lacking recent classroom experience
  2. Longevity pay rewarding retention was eliminated
  3. Removal of class size caps for grades 4-12
  4. Salary schedule subjected to annual political theater
  5. Salary schedule that freezes pay steps of teachers in years 15-24, and again 25+
  6. Salary schedule that doesn’t keep up with inflation, betraying the purchasing power of the schedule teachers “signed up for”

EducationNC republished my original post and according to public records obtained by Justin Parmenter, it sparked some dialogue among folks at the NC Department of Public Instruction, Southern Regional Education Board, and Eckel & Vaughan – the marketing firm tasked with “selling” the licensure plan to North Carolinians.

That email chain is very revealing of the hubris that has dominated the process and made it difficult for much advocacy progress over the last year to ensure that what’s presented to the North Carolina General Assembly isn’t just a Trojan Horse with entry paths for educontractors to peddle their programs, but a teacher pipeline solution North Carolina’s students deserve. Here are a few examples:

It’s interesting that the initial response is criticism that I ignore licensure, while advising the team to “talk less about licensure.”

My proposal doesn’t ignore licensure, it just doesn’t use it as a foundation for a fix when in my view the licensure process is not the crux of the issue. As mentioned earlier, the pipeline destabilization was self-inflicted through policies passed by the NC General Assembly over the last decade designed to demoralize and devalue current teachers and potential candidates.

With regard to the claim that my proposal is “basically the same” as their pitch, I advise them to re-read it and note the key differences that mine doesn’t reinvent a wheel, it restores what was eliminated and offers additional tweaks. The infographic below provides a quick summary as well:

Only a current classroom teacher could identify the ways in which these folks’ plan institutionalizes the current triage model that is burning out the same highly-qualified, highly-effective educators we most want to keep in our pipeline. We know because we’re the ones keeping classrooms afloat as these folks are firing off emails and meeting about messaging and graphics.

In the response below, it’s particularly rich that someone who has never been a classroom teacher condescends my apparent “misunderstanding” of advanced teaching roles as inferior to her take on how those roles are defined:

The author of the note above is Brenda Berg from BEST NC, an organization once located on the SAS campus, and cheerleader for education “reforms” that could further entrench SAS software in schools.

Ms. Berg and SAS want to define advanced teaching roles as a layer of middle-management where one person takes responsibility for 6 new teachers (not necessarily at the same school building). A future EVAAS 2.0 created by SAS could then be used as the software by which the “advanced role teacher” could be measured by the test scores of students in their mentees’ classrooms. EVAAS currently measures a teacher’s effectiveness based on their students’ performance on standardized tests.

According to Ms. Berg, my frontline experience serving in and being served by advanced roles (mentor, peer observer, department/grade level chairs, professional development leaders, student teacher hosts, professional learning community leader, etc.) reflects a lack of understanding of the current landscape I work in that supports veteran teachers as well as beginning and residency teachers. What do I know….I just work there.

Instead of a pitch that would benefit SAS, I offer one that benefits schools by valuing the existing but mostly uncompensated advanced roles: take the potential $70,000 that would be paid to an “advanced teacher adult leadership” role and instead distribute it as $3,500 stipends to 20 classroom-based teachers in existing advanced roles serving potentially 100 colleagues. That would certainly be more effective and fiscally prudent than a plan that serves only 7 people per role.

Tom Tomberlin, the Director of Educator Recruitment and Support for NC’s Department of Public Instruction, chimes in with his own contention that addressing the teacher pipeline cannot possibly be as simple as restoring previous supports & salary plus a few additional improvements. The insistence that the problem and solution must be more complex than restoration & reinvigoration reminds me of Avril Lavigne’s song, “Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?”

I’ll answer Mr. Tomberlin’s questions below, though he made no effort to seek answers over the last year:

The teacher moves through ABC using existing tools and standards to determine a teacher’s licensure status. We have current standards and evaluations for alternative path teachers through the residency program, college & university educator preparation programs, beginning teacher support programs that all cover the bases you mentioned. The North Carolina Educator Effectiveness System (NCEES) is the cornerstone of evaluation and support by assessing teacher effectiveness in 68 skills. Just because the talking points don’t include these policies and programs, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Furthermore, the statement that I don’t “want to think about off-ramps to the profession” is putting words in my mouth. I don’t want to work with, or have my own children led by, folks who aren’t up to standard. We have ways to remediate and if necessary remove those folks. My alarm at the PEPSC proposal is because it prioritizes finding ways for unprepared people to lead classrooms at the expense of prioritizing pre-requisites that respect our students’ rights to not be guinea pigs as someone experiments with teaching as a career. The PEPSC pitch at the time my response was written proposed (by design or by accident) culling up to 75% of licensed teachers. I disagreed with that assessment that only 25% of teachers actually belong in classrooms, especially if our goal is to ensure our pipeline is strengthened.

    Except there was a response to my “critique” (which I prefer to label as an alternative pathway to strengthening the teacher pipeline). It came in the form of another EducationNC commentary from Maureen Stover who sang the praises of the PEPSC work. I’m all for fair and balanced journalism that offers different perspectives through commentary, but found it odd that for months Ms. Stover’s commentary was lifted up by EducationNC with paid social media promotions.

    PEPSC workgroups are meeting to finalize a licensure program pitch for consideration by the NC General Assembly as early as March. It appears that out of the 50 or so members, only one is an active classroom teacher. The goal is a two-year pilot of largely the same plan that initially alarmed public school supporters for its efforts to open the floodgates on who leads children’s classrooms and open the floodgates on exiting teachers with tools largely controlled by SAS (EVAAS is a SAS program & NCEES data is housed by SAS).

    Mr. Tomberlin’s sentiments that “it is clear to me that we cannot respond to this teacher’s critique” has been the modus operandi since the genesis of the teacher licensure pitch.

    Part of being an effective teacher (and effective parent!) is making yourself difficult to ignore when it comes to doing what’s best for kids.

    You can weigh in with your thoughts on strengthening the teacher pipeline by sending an email to pathways.feedback@dpi.nc.gov

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