The success of any organization hinges on its capacity to develop the talent of its workers while simultaneously recruiting and retaining highly effective staff.
In education, the difficult task of recruiting and retaining effective teachers is exacerbated by a negative public perception of teaching as a profession, low salary and lack of opportunities for advancement. These factors have contributed to fewer students enrolling in collegiate teacher-prep programs and a decline in the number of years teachers remain in the classroom.
Recognizing the impact of these challenges, and understanding the widely accepted correlation between a teacher’s ability and his/her students’ academic growth, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools has taken an innovative approach to leverage teacher leadership, invest in teachers’ professional learning and incentivize positive outcomes for students.
Developed by an inclusive team of teachers, administrators and key stakeholders, Project ADVANCE (Achieving our District Vision: Accelerating North Carolina Education) is a compensation model designed to align the daily work in the classroom to the district’s Long Range Plan. While traditional compensation models pay teachers based on years of service and college credits earned, and performance-based compensation models focus heavily on test scores, Project ADVANCE provides multiple means of evidencing performance, and it financially rewards exceptional work.
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Through Project ADVANCE, all certified staff members are provided with opportunities to participate in personal and professional growth activities. They can also support the learning and development of colleagues, translate their own learning into practice, and substantiate the impact of their professional growth, as individuals and teams, on student learning and development.
Project ADVANCE offers a clear structure for advancement by providing credits for professional learning, implementing effective strategies and generating positive student outcomes. It is also flexible, allowing district and building leadership to adapt priorities and initiatives to the changing needs of students. This flexibility also makes Project ADVANCE a viable option for districts across the state and nation to adopt and align with their specific goals.
Project Advance contains four distinct professional levels. As credits are earned through engaging in professional learning, and individuals build upon the core competencies of the first level – the LEARN level – they are able to increase their spheres of influence by moving to higher levels – GROW, IMPACT and LEAD. These levels will not only distinguish them for their prior success, but also provide access to additional roles, allowing them to expand their impact and influence in their school and throughout the district. Consequently, as they move higher, their salaries increase.
To achieve our Long Range Plan goals of instructional excellence and closing achievement gaps, we must ensure that highly effective teachers lead our classrooms. With Project ADVANCE, our Design Team created structures and systems that will both encourage innovation in teacher leadership and build the incremental systemic change needed to sustain teacher leadership in the long term. More than just a strategic compensation model, Project ADVANCE will foster a culture of collaboration across the district and promote a growth mindset in our staff and our students.
Rydell Harrison is the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools executive director of Professional Learning and Project ADVANCE.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools has taken an innovative approach to leverage teacher leadership, invest in teachers’ professional learning and incentivize positive outcomes for students.