WakeEd’s Public Policy Agenda Focus: Teachers, Standards, Students

As the North Carolina General Assembly opens its long session on January 25, WakeEd Partnership has released its Public Policy Agenda (PDF) with an emphasis on teacher talent management, improving school accountability measures, and ensuring student equity for all.

The document is organized under three main topics: Properly Value the Teaching Profession, Align Academic Standards and School Accountability, and Improve Student Equity by Allowing Local Innovation. These three key areas reflect the critical needs of public education in North Carolina.

Properly Value the Teaching Profession

  • Teacher salaries have been debated for the past seven years with an emphasis on moving North Carolina in line with the national average. This type of benchmarking is an important bellwether, but it doesn’t necessarily consider the value of a teacher’s expertise. In addition, school principal pay is 50th in the nation, and non-certified staff such as instructional assistants, bus drivers, clerical staff, and child nutrition workers need to earn hourly wages which give them full access to the local economy. Paying people what they are worth based on responsibility, knowledge and experience instead of using a single national benchmark is more in line with private sector compensation practices.
  • Restructuring the school-based organization chart to create new teacher leadership roles will keep teachers in the profession longer. Some creative thinking will be necessary on this issue because it means creating new job titles with specific responsibilities, but these leadership positions will give teachers the ability to stay in the classroom while also serving in specialized roles to help students and fellow teachers.
  • An improved compensation structure and innovative leadership models will go a long way to encourage more college student to pursue a career in education, which will reverse the recent trend of declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs at the UNC system schools.

Align Academic Standards and School Accountability

  • There should be a unified school grading formula that meets federal standards as well as statewide expectations that is easy to understand by parents, educators, and policymakers alike. A detailed report card with multiple indicators will give a more complete picture of each school’s performance instead of relying on a simplistic A-F grade that is derived from one piece of data: test scores.
  • As the Department of Public Instruction continues to revise academic standards to phase out Common Core Standards, they should be replaced with standards based on best practices and written in layman’s terms that ensure students will be prepared year-to-year and for life beyond K-12 education.
  • North Carolina should also begin to move away from using a single measurement of student performance. The End of Grade/Course tests show only one aspect of a student’s ability to demonstrate learning. Adding student learning portfolios to student performance metrics give an alternative way for students to show what they know and for schools to offer proof that they are having a positive impact on student outcomes.

Improve Student Equity by Allowing Local Innovation

  • Local education authorities know their needs best, and they should be allowed to innovate based on those needs to ensure that each school has the best resources and practices to deliver positive outcomes.
  • Teachers who are prepared to teach their children the 3 R’s and the 4 C’s will have the highest performing students. Teachers can gain industry experience and the knowledge to craft engaging and thought-provoking lessons through targeted professional development which offers both industry exposure as well as a guiding hand.
  • The state calendar law limits the ability of local education authorities to start and end traditional calendar schools on specific calendar days. This rigidity is reducing the amount of time available for teacher professional development which is a key component of effective teaching practices. The state should move traditional calendar schools to the hours-only model used by year-round and modified calendar schools.

All of these issues and more are part of WakeEd’s planned advocacy during this year’s long session in the General Assembly. Look for updates from WakeEd on these topics as the session moves forward.

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