The North Carolina General Assembly Should Pass HB 1051 – Restore Master’s Supplement for Teachers

graduatedegreeraise

The GOP-led NC legislature’s 2013 decision to end graduate degree pay bumps for new teachers entering the teaching profession was not only misguided, but another wave in the assault on public education here in the Old North State.

I confess there exist numerous studies that have shown that advanced degrees do not correlate with higher test scores and/or higher graduation rates. Even John Hood’s October 2015 op-Ed “Not a matter of degrees” on EdNC.org makes note of these studies. He states:

Since 1990, scholars have published more than 100 studies in academic journals that tested the relationship between teachers having graduate degrees and some measure of educational success, such as test-score gains or increases in graduation rates. In more than 80 percent of the studies, there was no statistically significant relationship. A few of the studies actually found a negative effect. Only 15 percent produced a positive association.

Yet, those words do not convince this teacher that having advanced degrees is not beneficial for teachers, students, and schools.

Since 1990, we as a nation have transitioned from Clinton to Bush to Obama; we have survived No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. As a state, we have gone from the Standard Course of Study all the way to Common Core (and its amorphous successor). And we have used several versions of EOCT’s, EOG’s, SAT’s, ACT’s, AP’s, ABC’s, and AYP’s.

The point is that we have employed so many different barometers of learning utilizing various units of measurements that to actually compare current data on student achievement to historical data becomes almost futile. Even the SAT has changed multiple times since I took it in high school.

However, there is one constant in our classrooms that has provided the glue and mortar for public schools since 1990 and well before that: experienced teachers.

If the North Carolina General Assembly thinks that abolishing the graduate degree pay increases for teachers is a good policy, then it needs to convince North Carolinians that our state does not need veteran teachers who are seasoned with experience. Teachers who seek graduate degrees in education (and/or National Certification) are themselves making a commitment to pursue careers in public education. When the state refuses to give pay bumps for graduate degrees, then the state just ensured that North Carolina will not have as many veteran, experienced teachers in our schools in the near future. Those teachers will not be able to afford to stay in the profession. Yet, we as a state cannot afford to lose them.

Some teachers do not wish to earn graduate degrees simply because of time constraints and financial barriers. Some do not need graduate degrees to feel validated as master teachers, but the choice to further one’s education to advance in a chosen occupation should always remain and be rewarded. And if a teacher believes that it is beneficial to earn an advanced degree, then it can only help the teacher’s performance. Besides, it is an investment made by teachers who wish to remain in the educational field, especially when teachers here in NC still make salaries that rate near the bottom of the national scale. Even Governor McCrory called the recent budget’s influence on teacher salaries “chicken feed” in an episode of NC Spin.

In a report published in Education Week in March, 2015 entitled “New Studies Find That, for Teachers, Experience Really Does Matter”, Stephen Sawchuck recounted findings by Brown University scholars saying:

The notion that teachers improve over their first three or so years in the classroom and plateau thereafter is deeply ingrained in K-12 policy discussions, coming up in debate after debate about pay, professional development, and teacher seniority, among other topics.

 But findings from a handful of recently released studies are raising questions about that proposition. In fact, they suggest the average teacher’s ability to boost student achievement increases for at least the first decade of his or her career—and likely longer.

 Moreover, teachers’ deepening experience appears to translate into other student benefits as well. One of the new studies, for example, links years on the job to declining rates of student absenteeism.

 Although the studies raise numerous questions for follow-up, the researchers say it may be time to retire the received—and somewhat counterintuitive—wisdom that teachers can’t or don’t improve much after their first few years on the job.

 “For some reason, you hear this all the time, from all sorts of people, Bill Gates on down,” said John P. Papay, an assistant professor of education and economics at Brown University, in Providence, R.I. He is the co-author of one of two new studies on the topic. “But teacher quality is not something that’s fixed. It does develop, and if you’re making a decision about a teacher’s career, you should be looking at that dynamic.”

This reiterates that we need experienced, veteran teachers  – many of whom believe that advanced degrees or even national certification are ways to improve their performance in the classrooms. That is not to say that all teachers who have advanced degrees are better than those who do not. I work with many teachers in my school who have earned just a bachelor’s degree and are master teachers who possess traits I wish to emulate.

What many who work on West Jones Street in Raleigh do not mention is that while beginning teachers have seen a big increase in pay, those with more experience have not. In fact, the salary schedule for public school teachers ensures that a teacher who enters the profession today will never make over fifty thousand dollars ever in a year throughout his/her career. That is one major reason we are seeing fewer and fewer teaching candidates in undergraduate education schools here in North Carolina.

Because advanced degree pay is abolished, many potential teachers will never enter the field because that is the only way to receive a sizable salary increase to help raise a family or afford to stay in the profession. Furthermore, the amount of money it would take to repay the cost of a master’s degree would still take a teacher many years to make on a teacher’s salary, and in most cases that tuition is being paid to public colleges and universities. In essence, many teachers are reinvesting in the very public education system that they serve.

Ironically, not many of those who agree with eliminating graduate degree pay increases argue against that veracity of National Board Certification, which also leads to a pay increase. North Carolina still leads the nation in NBCT’s (National Board Certified Teachers). National certification is defined by a portfolio process which many schools of education emulate in their graduate programs. Additionally, national certification is recognized across the country and its process of validating teacher credentials has rarely been questioned.

But what really seems to be the most incongruous aspect of the argument against graduate degree pay increases is that it totally contradicts the message we send to students in a college and career ready curriculum. If we want students to be life-long learners and contribute to our communities, then where else to better witness that than with our teachers who want to get better at what they do. When students witness a teacher actually going to school (or knowing he/she went back to school), then the impact can be incredible because it means that teachers still “walk the walk” when it comes to furthering an education.

Besides, most all students know that public school teachers do not get into the profession to get rich.

Reason #3 To March For Students & Rally for Respect On May 16th – Removal of Graduate Degree Pay Increases

graduatepay

The GOP-led NC legislature’s 2013 decision to end graduate degree pay bumps for new teachers entering the teaching profession was not only misguided, but another wave in the assault on public education here in the Old North State.

I confess there exist numerous studies that have shown that advanced degrees do not correlate with higher test scores and/or higher graduation rates. Even John Hood’s October 2015 op-Ed “Not a matter of degrees” on EdNC.org makes note of these studies. He states:

Since 1990, scholars have published more than 100 studies in academic journals that tested the relationship between teachers having graduate degrees and some measure of educational success, such as test-score gains or increases in graduation rates. In more than 80 percent of the studies, there was no statistically significant relationship. A few of the studies actually found a negative effect. Only 15 percent produced a positive association.

Yet, those words do not convince this teacher that having advanced degrees is not beneficial for teachers, students, and schools.

Since 1990, we as a nation have transitioned from Clinton to Bush to Obama; we have survived No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. As a state, we have gone from the Standard Course of Study all the way to Common Core (and its amorphous successor). And we have used several versions of EOCT’s, EOG’s, SAT’s, ACT’s, AP’s, ABC’s, and AYP’s.

The point is that we have employed so many different barometers of learning utilizing various units of measurements that to actually compare current data on student achievement to historical data becomes almost futile. Even the SAT has changed multiple times since I took it in high school.

However, there is one constant in our classrooms that has provided the glue and mortar for public schools since 1990 and well before that: experienced teachers.

If the North Carolina General Assembly thinks that abolishing the graduate degree pay increases for teachers is a good policy, then it needs to convince North Carolinians that our state does not need veteran teachers who are seasoned with experience. Teachers who seek graduate degrees in education (and/or National Certification) are themselves making a commitment to pursue careers in public education. When the state refuses to give pay bumps for graduate degrees, then the state just ensured that North Carolina will not have as many veteran, experienced teachers in our schools in the near future. Those teachers will not be able to afford to stay in the profession. Yet, we as a state cannot afford to lose them.

Some teachers do not wish to earn graduate degrees simply because of time constraints and financial barriers. Some do not need graduate degrees to feel validated as master teachers, but the choice to further one’s education to advance in a chosen occupation should always remain and be rewarded. And if a teacher believes that it is beneficial to earn an advanced degree, then it can only help the teacher’s performance. Besides, it is an investment made by teachers who wish to remain in the educational field, especially when teachers here in NC still make salaries that rate in the bottom part of the national scale.

This reiterates that we need experienced, veteran teachers  – many of whom believe that advanced degrees or even national certification are ways to improve their performance in the classrooms. That is not to say that all teachers who have advanced degrees are better than those who do not. I work with many teachers in my school who have earned just a bachelor’s degree and are master teachers who possess traits I wish to emulate.

What many who work on West Jones Street in Raleigh do not mention is that while beginning teachers have seen a big increase in pay, those with more experience have not. In fact, the salary schedule for public school teachers ensures that a teacher who enters the profession today will never make over fifty thousand dollars ever in a year throughout his/her career. That is one major reason we are seeing fewer and fewer teaching candidates in undergraduate education schools here in North Carolina.

Because advanced degree pay is abolished, many potential teachers will never enter the field because that is the only way to receive a sizable salary increase to help raise a family or afford to stay in the profession. Furthermore, the amount of money it would take to repay the cost of a master’s degree would still take a teacher many years to make on a teacher’s salary, and in most cases that tuition is being paid to public colleges and universities. In essence, many teachers are reinvesting in the very public education system that they serve.

Ironically, not many of those who agree with eliminating graduate degree pay increases argue against that veracity of National Board Certification, which also leads to a pay increase. North Carolina still leads the nation in NBCT’s (National Board Certified Teachers). National certification is defined by a portfolio process which many schools of education emulate in their graduate programs. Additionally, national certification is recognized across the country and its process of validating teacher credentials has rarely been questioned.

But what really seems to be the most incongruous aspect of the argument against graduate degree pay increases is that it totally contradicts the message we send to students in a college and career ready curriculum. If we want students to be life-long learners and contribute to our communities, then where else to better witness that than with our teachers who want to get better at what they do. When students witness a teacher actually going to school (or knowing he/she went back to school), then the impact can be incredible because it means that teachers still “walk the walk” when it comes to furthering an education.

Besides, most all students know that public school teachers do not get into the profession to get rich.

An Open Letter From a Veteran North Carolina Teacher to Young Teachers – You Are Vital

letter writing

Dear Fellow Educator,

I first want to tell you that I admire what you have chosen to do as a career. Teaching in today’s public schools is not easy. I know as I am in my 20th year of teaching. I still love my job. I still love being with the students. Outside of my family, this profession has fulfilled me like no other. I firmly believe my students would concur if asked.

And it has kept me young at heart and sharp in mind.

One of the main reasons I have adored public school teaching is I had great veteran teachers who mentored me and engaged with me, and who cared about how I progressed as an individual and professional.

But I worry about the future of our profession in North Carolina sometimes. I am afraid that we will not have as many veteran teachers in the future as we do now. That’s why I want to try and convince you to stay in the profession.

You are needed. You are vital. You can be agents of change and staunch advocates for schools and students. You can improve the profession and secure the very items that will strengthen our profession. You are beginning your career at one of the most crucial times where educational reform is at a fever pitch and schools are under constant scrutiny.

Teaching is that one “occupation” that everybody has some sort of stake in. If you are not a student, former student, parent of a student, employer of former students, then you are at least paying taxes to help support public schools. People who invest in any way, shape, or form are stakeholders and many will go out of their way to tell you what is right or wrong about our schools.

Teaching might be the most openly exposed, yet most misunderstood profession. With changes in curriculum, standards, evaluations, graduation requirements, salaries, policies, resources, laws, and personnel, it is arduous for even us veteran teachers to keep pace. Public education takes the largest part of our state budget; it probably takes up the most debate time and committee meetings in the General Assembly.

Class sizes are larger. High-stakes testing quantifies everything. Data gets crunched by outside entities. There are meetings with parents and administrators. There is the planning and grading and the revising of differentiated lesson plans.

And then there are our students, the very reasons why we do what we do. Their needs are upmost in our priorities.

Those needs are many: academic, mental, psychological, emotional, and physical. Those needs force us to “wear many hats.” Those needs force us to always learn how to best serve our students in conditions that could never be measured by standardized assessments.

When I became a teacher, my venerable uncle gave me some of his usual sage advice. A retired English teacher, he still is revered by former students. It was he who became the model for what I still strive to do in classroom. He told me when I began teaching to give it three years.

The first year would be a whirlwind simply trying to learn how to plan, execute, and instruct students. The second year would be a paper maelstrom because I was still trying to learn how to be a part of a school community and understand the inner workings of the school. The third year my immune system would get to the point where I wouldn’t catch every malady that students had and I would have familiarity with the job as a whole. My third year would be where I could see the profession holistically.

But the one thing he always stressed: enjoy the students. When the door closes for class, you can help some amazing things happen.

Students are what have kept me in this profession. With all of the flux that occurs in education, the criticism that schools receive, and the constant need for resources and support, students have been the constant and consistent foundation in my career.

Yes, the faces change from year to year, but they never disappear. Many will always want to stay in contact. All will have made an impression on you and you will impact them. If students always remain the center of what you do as an educator, those other stressors can be dealt with in proactive ways.

Having younger teachers energizes a school building. You bring in new ideas, contagious energy, and constant reminders of why we do what we do. You come in with new uses for technology and new pedagogical approaches. And it is up to us veterans to be useful mentors, good sounding boards, and constructive critics.

It is also a veteran teacher’s job to show you how to advocate for students and schools. It is that advocacy that helps keep students the focus of what we do and when we keep the focus on students we tend to stay in the profession longer, and when teachers stay in the profession longer it ensures that when new teachers come into the profession there will always be veterans there to help them and learn from them.

When I started teaching in North Carolina we had due-process rights, a salary schedule, and graduate degree pay increases. We had state-funded professional development and fewer standardized tests. We had a General Assembly that did a better job at fully-funding public schools. We had more time for each student to help “personalize” instruction.

Unfortunately, many of those conditions no longer exist. But they can again if you fight for them.

Advocating for students and schools means that you advocate for the teaching profession because schools do not work well without empowered teachers. Students need strong teachers who are supported for what they do; therefore, the more you advocate for the teaching profession, the more you are advocating for students and schools. It could mean that you make sure to vote in elections. It could mean that you join a professional organization like NCAE. It could mean that you write op-eds, visit legislators, or become involved with teacher groups. It could mean doing all of these.

Many in Raleigh will tell you that your average pay has increased as a beginning teacher an incredible amount. But if you really look at the overall picture, the removal of due-process, the removal of graduate degree pay increases, the recent mandate to keep new teachers from having state supported insurance when they retire, the stunted salary schedule, and all of the other measures enacted by the current NCGA, you will see why there are fewer teacher candidates in our colleges and universities.

But you are here, and I want you to stay. Your students, schools, communities, and fellow educators want you to stay, grow, and advocate. I want you to become a better veteran teacher than I am today who is willing and ready to help any new teacher get better at what he / she does which is help students. I want you to feel empowered to take action. I want you to be able to speak up for your profession, even if it means confiding only in trusted colleagues.

I will promise you this: if students see you advocating for them and their school, they will move mountains for you because when you keep students at the center of what you do, they will notice and act in kind.

And students are the reason we are here.

About That John Hood Op-ed on Teacher Pay and “Reasoned Debate”

teacher

As the president of the John William Pope foundation and chairman of the board at the libertarian think tank John Locke Foundation, John Hood serves more as a mouthpiece that represents a political ideology which obeys the policies of the American Legislative Exchange Council more than it considers the average North Carolinian.

On issues such as voter rights, economic stimulus, tax reform, tort reform, legislative district boundaries, and the privatizing of public goods, John Hood’s writings and commentaries reflect the very ideologies of his boss, Art Pope, who helped craft the very political atmosphere that NC has adopted these last five years.

Nowhere does Hood’s words more reflect a narrow-mindedness than when he talks about public education.

John Hood’s recent missive in EdNC.org entitled “Teacher pay deserves reasoned debate” is nothing more than platitudinous rubbish that continues to push unregulated reform under the veil of a moral high road all in the name of free markets (https://www.ednc.org/2017/10/31/teacher-pay-deserves-reasoned-debate/).

It is condescending and haughty whether it was intended or not.

Hood calls for “reasoned debate.” That’s laughable. The practice of “reasoned debate” has not been used in Raleigh in years. When the very GOP-controlled General Assembly who champions the policies that Hood promotes conducts multiple “special sessions” and midnight meetings without transparency, that means the idea of “reasoned debate” has been abandoned.

The constant flow of court cases which continuously get laws and initiatives overturned as unconstitutional is the product of intentional disdain of reasoned debate. To claim that reasoned debate can and will be used when discussing the teaching profession is simply hot air. To claim that “civil, respectful, and productive discussion” is possible with the pedigree shown by leaders in Raleigh is even more preposterous.

Hood’s lesson in rhetoric with explanation on the “three elements to any argument” was especially arrogant. To suggest that what has been used to drive policy on public education was and still is built on facts and “logical reasoning” is a farce. What has happened in Raleigh is a distortion of the facts and the promulgation of logical fallacies.

And the idea that all parties come to the table to discuss matters? It is hard to “put the different definitions on the table” when most of the people who are to be affected by the “discussion” are not even allowed to the table.

Argumentation is not that simple when you consider the credibility of the speaker, the message, the audience, the style of the delivery, and the overall purpose. Argumentation can be meant to dominate, negotiate, inquire, or even assert. And arguments are rarely offered with just appeals to logic but may appeal to ethics and emotions and a mix of the three.

What Hood is doing is simplifying the matter and claiming to take a civilized route. In reality, a debate on public education should include so much more than Hood’s simple explanation of rhetoric.

When offering the biased analysis of the recent debate in Newton over teacher pay, Hood obviously sides with Dr. Terry Stoops and Rep. Craig Horn. They abide by the same narrative.

In fact, Hood made sure to highlight Stoops’s argument over teacher pay overhaul.

Terry Stoops, a former teacher who directs education studies for the John Locke Foundation, argued that traditional teacher salary schedules, centered on years of tenure and forms of credentials, bear little resemblance to the way professionals such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, and accountants are paid.

“If you’re a teacher and performing very well, you might get paid less than the person down the hall just because they’ve been in the profession longer,” Stoops said. “That sends a bad signal to those teachers that are in the profession that just because someone has spent longer in the system they’re making more, when it’s completely disassociated with student performance.”

Ironically, Hood identifies Stoops as a former teacher and not as his colleague at the John Locke Foundation. Why is that important? That’s because Stoops taught for less than one calendar year according to his LinkedIn profile.

One year.

He never experienced the very changes and flux that the very teachers he is supposedly “advocating” for have endured like change in curriculum, evaluations, leadership, testing, etc. In fact, it is hard to find anything that Dr. Stoops has written that informs teachers of his own limited days in the classroom in Virginia, a state that just got rid of its school performance grading system and put a cap on charter school growth, two initiatives so readily embraced in Raleigh.

But it’s that “suggestion” that NC should move to pay teachers like the “way professionals such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, and accountants are paid” that lacks the very logic Hood claims should be using in a “reasoned debate.”

If I as a teacher should be paid as one of those other professionals, then maybe I should be paid by an hourly rate that I establish and be able to consider each student a separate client since I have to differentiate instruction. Actually, I would be a lot richer now than when the current GOP-led NCGA came to power because now I teach more students in a school year with more criteria to be met and spend more hours teaching them.

Now that’s logic.

Maybe I could market myself as a professional and go after the best “clients” no matter where they are slated to attend. Competition is competition, right?. Essentially, that sounds a lot like what unregulated charter schools and private schools already do. And Hood is all for those.

The comment “Structuring pay around years of experience and degrees awarded was a bad idea” is also devoid of the logic that Hood so thinks we should use.

It seems logical to expect a lawyer, doctor, engineer, or accountant to believe that experience should be factored in his/her pay scale. Actually, the more letters that these professionals can place next to their names through further certification and advanced degrees, the more these people can demand in recompense. Of course, performance is key in their success, but for doctors, lawyers, engineers, and accountants, performance is not always under the constant scrutiny of the legislature.

Furthermore, each of those professions requires a certain amount of schooling and certification. The man who supposedly leads our public school system became a teacher in a matter of weeks and was in the classroom twice as long as the former teacher referred to in Hood’s op-ed, Dr. Stoops. Would Hood call Mark Johnson a “professional educator?” Try passing a bill like SB599 for the legal and medical professions.

Teachers are certainly underpaid. That is not the question. But to automatically equate how we pay teachers with how other “professionals” are paid is ridiculous when they are treated so differently than the teaching profession. Try regulating the legal, medical, and business communities in the same way that education is regulated. Interestingly, the same legislation that goes out of its way to “deregulate” how businesses operate in the state in order to promote business usually ensures less interference from government in how those entities should operate.

Quite the opposite has happened with public education. In fact, Hood and his reformist cronies have actually added more layers of nebulous accountability while weakening the ability for the profession to advocate for itself and the students in public schools.

And paying teachers like they are professionals probably would be easier if teachers were part of the conversation “at the table.” The operative word here is “at.”

Not “under” the table.

Not “on” the table”

“At” the table.

Then that conversation can start, because the “logical debate” that Hood alludes to seems to only have lawmakers “at” the table illogically discussing with their alternate facts what should be done about teacher pay.

Lawmakers should be more open to speak “with” teachers.

Not “to” them.

Not “down” at them.

This op-ed from John Hood is talking down to teachers.

Op-eds like this are a re-run of the same blue-blazered and straight collared argument to funnel tax-payer money from a public good to profit a few as well as weakening the teaching profession while presenting a dignified smile at the same time.

 

National Board Certification Score Release Day – An Argument to Invest More in Teachers

Did you know that 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/.

NBCT

This morning score reports for those who were seeking renewal were released. If you succeeded, I congratulate you. It’s not easy to become and remain certified.

When I initially sought to become nationally certified, the day of the fall score reporting was as nerve-racking a day as I could imagine. Today, when I looked at my renewal scores, I had that same feeling because it is important.

But the way that the state of North Carolina looks at NBCT’s and the process they undergo to become certified has almost completely turned around.

When I initially began my certification process a decade ago, the state paid my fees. The state saw it as an investment in teachers to get better at what they do. That might be the reason that so many teachers in NC underwent the process. That no longer happens. Teachers must finance their own chance to get better at their avocation. My renewal fees for this cycle alone were higher than a mortgage payment.

The state also gave an increase in pay to those who became nationally certified, but they stopped that policy for those who seek graduate degrees. Unlike graduate degrees, the state apparently still views national certification as a viable display of expertise and professionalism.

And that is a bit contradictory to what many policy-makers are saying about the need to “reform.” The need for competition among schools and teachers seems to be the central mantra of reformers; however, national boards is really a testament to collaboration and community and being a part of – not being above others.

If anyone wants to see the process of what it is like to receive national certification, then simply go to http://www.nbpts.org/. It’s all there. Even if you don’t, it is safe to assume that it includes actual footage of teaching, letters of recommendation and authenticity, student samples, evidence of outreach, evidence of leadership among others.

But at one time national certification was an investment that this state made in teachers. It was an investment in teachers becoming better. NBCT’s tend to stay in the profession longer. Research shows that they affect student achievement positively. If it didn’t, then the regard in which this state still holds NBCT’s in would come under lots more scrutiny.

The argument here is many-fold.

Our state still has the most NBCT’s which correlates to a lot of people who are dedicated to teaching at a high standard and achieving greater goals DESPITE what lawmakers have said about the profession and done to disenfranchise public schools.

We should as a state reinstate the payment of entry and renewal fees for those seeking to become certified or maintaining certification.  It is an investment whose ROI is very high.

And we as a state should bring back graduate degree pay bumps because most education graduate programs have a similar portfolio dynamic and process that national certification also embraces as well as more focused attention on latest research.

If Raleigh truly wants to help public education, then it would invest in the people – like it used to before we had the situation we have today that requires weak and anemic policies like SB599.