Commission weighing pay and licensure must point out advantages of teacher diversity
Education leaders remaking North Carolina’s teacher pay and licensure systems must be explicit in pointing out the need to recruit, retain and support educators of color as it goes about its work, says a task force created by Gov. Roy Cooper to increase teacher diversity.
The Developing a Representative and Inclusive Vision for Education (DRIVE) Task Force made its comments in a letter to the state’s Professional Educator Preparation Standards Commission (PEPSC) that is working on a new licensure and pay structure that would increase teacher pay and provide educators with opportunities to increase pay at a faster rate than the current salary schedule.
“Direct language about the importance of educators of color has an important effect on education stakeholders, from legislators to educator preparation programs to school districts and the public,” the task force wrote. “All North Carolina children will see more positive learning outcomes with a more racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse teaching and educator workforce.”
The new NC Pathways to Excellence for Teaching Professionals developed by PEPSC will first be introduced as a pilot program in selected school districts pending General Assembly approval.
As Newsline previously reported, the proposed licensure and pay model would create a system of entry-level certifications to bring more people into the profession. One certification would serve essentially as a learner’s permit. It would allow aspiring educators with associate’s degrees to teach for two years while they earn a bachelor’s degree. Teachers working under that license would receive a base salary of $30,000.
Veteran teachers in leadership roles could earn an advanced teacher license. A National Board Certified Teacher working under that license with a master’s degree and more than 25 years of experience could earn more than $80,000 a year. North Carolina’s teachers are currently paid based on their years of experience.
“Many aspects of the Pathways proposal, including significant and strategic salary increases, opportunities for advancement through Advanced Teaching Roles, allowing for multiple measures of teacher impact, and the expansion of alternative certification pathways and early career supports, will help North Carolina to improve educator workforce diversity,” the task force wrote.
The DRIVE Task Force sent its letter to PEPSC to highlight the positive impact that the Pathways proposal could have on teacher diversity and to identify opportunities to align the professional pathways structures more closely with task for demands, the letter said.
“We believe components of this proposal have the potential to, if implemented well, expand the number of teachers of color in classrooms by addressing some of the barriers and challenges the DRIVE Task Force identified in its report,” the task force said in its letter.
The DRIVE Task Force believes the new Pathways will attract more people of color to the teaching profession because it eliminates some of the barriers many of them face.
“Educators of color often lack the generational wealth afforded to their white colleagues, which, when coupled with a low salary compared to similarly credentialed professionals, leave educators of color to face an uphill battle in paying down student loan debt,” the task force wrote in its final report to Cooper.
Research shows that all students, but students of color particularly, benefit when taught by teachers of color, the task force wrote. Nationally, roughly 80% of teachers are white.
“Students experience stronger academic outcomes and positive impacts relative to college aspirations and self-confidence; however, data illustrate that people of color become educators at lower rates than their white peers, and educators of color leave the teaching profession at higher rates,” the task for said.
The task force discussed barriers to recruiting and retaining teachers of color in its final report to Cooper in 2021. In June, DRIVE also published a plan to implement its recommendations to increase teacher diversity.
In its letter, the task force applauded PEPSC for offering alternative ways for teachers to show their abilities to impact student learning. Providing alternates paths will open the doors for more people from diverse backgrounds to enter the teaching profession, the task force said.
“Anyone who has ever taught knows that standardized tests do not capture the myriad of positive things that a teacher is doing in the classroom,” the task force said.
PEPSC Chairman Van Dempsey shared the task force’s letter with PEPSC members on Thursday. Dempsey said the letter was sent to State Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis as well.
“The letter is a generally positive statement about the work that PEPSC has been doing and that we’ve done with DPI [Department of Public Instruction] and the State Board of Education in the development of the pathways model and the framing of the pilots, so it’s good to hear that support from the Drive Task Force,” said Dempsey, the dean of the College of Education at UNC Wilmington.
Teachers have complained that the proposal is an unwanted move to a system of merit pay that places too much emphasis on students’ standardized test scores. They argue that a better strategy to recruit and retain teachers — a stated goal of the new proposal — is to pay them a fair wage.
“We believe North Carolina needs a teacher licensure program that respects teachers’ expertise, rewards their time in the profession, offers support throughout their career, and recruits and retains educators of color in a way that reflects the demographics of our public-school student population,” NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly said in November.
State Superintendent Catherine Truitt has said the feedback that she’s received about the proposal is mostly grounded in “misinterpretation or misstatements” of fact. Truitt contends the proposal is not a merit pay model.
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