This year, we celebrate the 175th anniversary of public schools in North Carolina. We have seen many changes and improvements since that original school opened in Rockingham County in 1840. However, one area that has not changed much over the years is the method in which we compensate our teachers.
The salary schedule for public educators is based entirely upon the amount of time served. In other professions, employees are compensated for the job they do and how well they do it – not simply for how long they have held the position.
As we look for ways to improve teacher compensation, I believe public education can benefit by examining the compensation practices of the business community.
When educators accept a teaching position, they are handed the keys to the classroom, a class list and well wishes for teaching a group of children who will be arriving in a few days. As new college graduates, excited about their first teaching position, they assume that they will know what has to be done. Sadly, this is not necessarily the case.
Before I became an educator, I worked in the business world – my experience there was completely different. My degree got me in the door, but then I was required to learn the company’s operating philosophy.
At both GE and Chrysler, everyone involved was expected to speak the same language, to work toward improved operations along the supply chain, and to continually monitor customer satisfaction.
The lessons I learned in the business world have influenced my outlook on teacher compensation.
These combined beliefs are shared by the leadership of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
In fact, they recently assembled a design team of over 30 employees, representing a variety of titles and worksites. The team has been busy over the past six months working with a national consultant to create a new compensation model called Project: Advance, which will drive teachers to improve their skills while motivating students to grow. The model contains four distinct tiers for compensation.
The first step on the Project: Advance model is “Learn.” This is a time for teachers to take their university-taught skills and modify them to work in a classroom. It is an opportunity to learn about the growth environment, the school, parent interface, and the daily grind. Each school and school district has its own language to shape its learners. During this first learning step, time is taken to develop a common language that is shared by teachers within their Professional Learning Community, their department, their grade or their role at school. During this step, mentors and support are available and success is required.
The next step on the model is “Grow.” This is a time for teachers to find tools to reach all types of learners, to master curriculum and its measurements to ensure growth. This step requires master lesson plans, lesson delivery, assessment, data collection and making connections with other expert teachers.
“Impact” is the next step, and the toughest level of the model. Teachers must master a toolbox that contains common language, curriculum knowledge, motivators for diversified learners and data mining skills which combine to create consistent student growth. During this step, teachers must use, teach and expand this diversified toolbox, measure student and teacher impact, and change, improve and master the classroom experience.
The final step is “Lead.” This step includes time for teachers to show others how to impact teacher and student growth while improving their own skills.
Each of the steps in this model require teacher learning. At the first levels, teachers participate in courses where they learn, implement and track progress. In the higher levels of the model, they participate in and possibly lead or teach the professional development courses. This learning cycle shows continuous improvement and growth for the teachers.
The compensation model provides career ownership and multiple paths, which reward teachers for student growth while also improving the daily learning experiences.
My passion for this model comes from creating the change that could shift the ownership of my career path to me. Our school district has the capacity to implement this model using local funds that supplement teacher salaries, but we are asking the State to join us in implementing this model with the full teacher compensation package. It can be done.
1840 was a long time ago!
Peggy Dreher is a teacher at Culbreth Middle School.