In recent years, attempts to modify the teacher compensation scale have adjusted the scale in unfavorable ways.
The House and Senate differed widely this year on how to adjust the scale, and a compromise was reached in the final budget. The plan phases in over two years starting with the 2016-17 school year. Once the new plan is phased in completely, teachers will receive an experiential raise, known as a step increase, every year between 1-14 years of experience. Pay will then plateau until year 24, and final small step increase will occur again in year 25.
There are two schools of thought on this. On the one hand teachers with experience are often seen as the most valuable veterans of the organization and they deserve to be honored with experience credit in their salaries. The second school is that 25 years is too long to reach the top of the pay scale because teachers don’t take 25 years to reach the top of their effectiveness.
The problem here is that teaching is a flat profession. In other areas of public service there are ways for professionals to increase their responsibility and salary as they progress through the profession. For example, a patrol officer may become a patrol supervisor, and later a detective or a captain. There is no such structure in education that also carries with it additional compensation.
The state budget addressed that issue by implementing a pilot program for school districts to develop a plan for teacher leadership roles which may also carry with them increased compensation. WCPSS staff recently presented such a plan to school board members with three levels of teacher leadership within the school building. While WCPSS wants to honor the expertise of the lifelong classroom teacher, the school system is also hoping to build in new ways to give teachers a voice in their school building.
In addition to adjusting the pay scale, the state budget also implemented a number of performance-based bonuses for certain types of teachers.
- At the high school level, teachers of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Programme courses will receive a $50 bonus up to a total of $2,000 for each student who passes an AP or IB test.
- Career and Technical Education teachers will receive either a $25 or $50 bonus per student based on the type of industry certification the student obtains after completing a CTE course.
- Finally, third grade teachers will receive a $50 bonus for each student who passes reading benchmark assessments. This one in particular has already drawn criticism because some believe it will inspire cheating and it leaves out the hard work of the K-2 teachers in the reading pipeline. WakeEd would like to see this program expanded to K-2 teachers as well if it were to continue past this school year.
These bonus structures appear to be incentives, but they are also highly selective. Teaching is not a sales department. If incentives are going to be used to recognize highly effective teachers, then a structure should be implemented to reward teachers across the board based on a menu of effectiveness metrics. An example is the format once used by the ABCs of Education initiative which awarded cash bonuses to teachers at schools which demonstrated high performance. This could be a positive way to use the new school grading structure implemented last year assuming an increased weighting were given to growth versus achievement.