Why NC’s “Average” Teacher Salary Is Horribly Overstated

Every year, the National Education Association releases a report called the Annual Teacher Salary Benchmark Report sometime in the spring. This year it was dropped on April 26th.

North Carolina is mentioned specifically in the first part of the report.

According to the report, all of NC’s 115 LEAs were able to have all 93,462 teacher salaries reported.

But there is a lot of data in this report that can be very much misinterpreted. Those who want to drive a narrative that teacher pay in NC is great will cherry-pick some of the data and ignore the rest. For instance, take a look at this:

That table is for TEACHER SALARY BENCHMARK AVERAGE. “Benchmark” and “average” do not mean the same thing. From ahrq.gov:

Although the term “benchmark” is often thought to mean an “average,” the original meaning of this term in the context of quality improvement is performance that is known to be achievable because someone has achieved it. Comparing performance to a benchmark definitely sets a higher “bar” than comparing to any average.

This is the salary schedule associated with the year of the report.

But what needs to be noted is that “starting master’s” and “top master’s” in that Benchmark table will become extinct within years as there is no longer graduate degree pay bumps given to teachers hired after 2014. The NCGA that likes to brag about the average teacher pay being so high in NC cannot sustain that average with the legislation it has enacted in the past few years.

This next table is rather revealing. Remember that NC has 115 physical districts.

According to this, NC ranks 43rd out of 51 in starting teacher pay. Only 5 districts have starting teachers make over $40K. That is a statement on local supplements. Only five of the 115 districts offer a local supplement high enough to put the starting salary over $40K. (And that average salary on the far left already has local supplements accounted for; the NCGA does not give districts the money to give local supplements).

If you want, look at the interactive table of 2020-2021 local supplements offered by each LEA for which a portion is shown.

Also, when looking at the report, it is not hard to see that each state has its own way on reporting information about teacher pay. It can be highly inconsistent across the country.

So there is a difference in reporting, and a difference in local supplements from district to district and from state to state. There is also no more graduate degree pay bumps for those newer NC teachers.

And there’s one more thing: National Board Certified Teachers.

North Carolina has more Nationally Board Certified Teachers than any state in the country.

Simply go to this site and compare – http://www.nbpts.org/in-your-state/.

A large percentage of teachers in NC (over 20%) have national board status and achieving that level is not an easy feat. Each state has NBCTs, but each state compensates differently for it.

North Carolina gives and annual 12% raise to NBCT’s who teach in the state.

What if that was taken away for new teachers as well?

What if LEA’s could not afford to fund local supplements?

What if graduate degree pay bumps were never reinstated?

Makes that “average” not seem so steady.