Like most teacher pay scales, NC teachers are rewarded for time of service, credentials and advance degrees. Problem is, none of these variables is really tied to classroom effectiveness. The lack of linkage between good teaching and compensation, not only shapes the lifetime earnings arc of teachers but also impacts students whose achievement levels are strongly tied to the quality of teaching. Developing a new NC teacher pay plan that remedies these shortcomings is the task Jacob Vigdor, associate professor of Public Policy Studies at Duke University tackles in a highly interesting and relevant article (Scrap the Sacrosanct Salary Schedule) in the fall issue of Education Next. Vigdor outlines the current problems when he writes:
On the North Carolina salary schedule, teachers receive rewards for experience, for attaining advanced degrees, and for becoming certified by the NBPTS. A masters’ degree entitles a teacher to a permanent 10 percent increase in salary. Teachers with doctoral degrees earn a permanent 15 percent differential relative to those with bachelors degrees. Teachers with NBPTS certification receive a permanent 12 percent boost in salary. Finally teachers accrue increments to their salary as they gain experience. At the top rung of the experience ladder, teachers with 27 or more years in the classroom earn 68 percent more than starting teachers with equivalent credentials.
Vigdor then zeroes in on the real issue:
But the available evidence suggests that the connection between credentials and teaching effectiveness is very weak at best, and the connection between additional years of experience and teaching effectiveness, which substantial in the first few years in the classroom, attenuates over time. Though exact results vary from one study to the next, there is little doubt that credentials and additional years of experience (beyond the first few years) matter far less to teacher effectiveness than they do to teacher compensation as it is currently designed.
The solution? Implement an evidence-based salary schedule that rewards educators in the early years of their careers when a teacher’s impact on student gains are most significant. Vigdor’s proposes a reasonable, revenue-neutral plan for correcting shortcomings in the current system. His plan infuses the current salary structure with market forces and ties teacher pay to effectiveness. These are much needed reforms, likely to draw support from conservatives and moderates and stiff opposition from teachers unions. Still, NC needs to attract and retain more teachers. UNC General Administration has estimated the state will need 5,000 new teachers a year for the next three years to meet staffing needs. All the more reason to give Vigdor’s proposal serious consideration.