Peter Greene writes in Forbes about an insidious, nefarious, behind-closed-door plan to sabotage teachers’ pay and evaluations, while relying on the discredited value-added test-score-based system whose main corporation just happens to be in North Carolina. Greene relies on the relentless investigations by North Carolina teacher Justin Parmenter, a National Board Certified Teacher.

Just to be clear: the proposed plan to change teachers’ pay relies on test scores and merit pay. No merit pay plan has ever successfully identified the “better” or “best” teachers. Tying teacher pay to test score increases has been tried repeatedly and has failed repeatedly. The most extensive trial of “value-added” measurement was funded by the Gates Foundation and evaluated by RAND-AIR. Gates gave $575 million to Hillsborough County in Florida, Memphis, and Pittsburgh, and to four charter chains, to evaluate teachers by test scores. The goal was to get the most highly effective teachers into the classrooms with the neediest students. The RAND-AIR report concluded that the Gates money “did not improve student achievement, did not affect graduation rates or dropout rates, and did not change the quality of teachers.” Some of the districts experienced higher teacher turnover. The neediest students did not get the most effective teachers, because teachers were afraid that their VAM scores would fall if they moved to classrooms with the neediest students. Overall, the program was a very expensive disaster. I wrote about it in my book Slaying Goliath (pp. 244-245).

So, North Carolina appears to be determined to drive its best teachers away, to increase its teacher shortage, when the solutions to their problems are obvious: increase teachers’ pay, reduce class sizes, and respect teacher voices.

Greene writes in Forbes:

North Carolina is considering a radical revamp of its teacher pay system, a framework that ties teacher pay to measures of merit, instead of years of experience. It is a bad plan, for a wide variety of reasons, not the least of which is that no teacher merit pay plan has ever proven to be a definitive success. 

This plan lowers the bar for entering the profession, while creating a ladder to higher levels of certification and higher levels of pay tied to “educational outcomes,”. Meaning, a system in which a teacher’s livelihood is tied to student test scores and a teacher training is centered on preparing students for a single high stakes test. 

The current pay scale offers little relief; a teacher with a bachelor’s degree starts at $35,000 a year, and that goes up $1,000 per year until they’ve been in the classroom for sixteen. 

Then their pay does not move for a decade, at which point they get a $2,000 raise—the last raise they’ll ever see. 

A North Carolina teacher faces the certainty that if they make a lifelong career out of teaching, they will see their pay in real dollars steadily decline.

The North Carolina Association of Educators have come out strongly against the proposal, as did working teachers on the ground. So did the North Carolina Colleges of Teacher Educators. Yet the proposal is still headed for consideration. Where did it come from, and who is pushing it?

Justin Parmenter is a veteran North Carolina teacher who has been asking those same questions. They turned out to be disturbingly difficult to answer.

The pipeline dries up

The roots go back over a decade. North Carolina had been a leading state for public education, but in 2010 the GOP established a super-majority in the legislature. What followed was a steady dismantling of public education in the state, combined with steps backward for the teaching profession.

Funding levels of public schools dropped, and the legislature has dragged its feet on implementing a court-ordered funding equity plan. At the same time, they have provided great opportunities for charter school profiteers

The GOP legislature has used school funding for Democrat-voting districts as a political football. In recent culture battles, the state has seen everything from County Commissioners holding school funding hostage to Lt. Governor Mark Robinson leading a hunt (complete with tip line) to catch teachers misbehaving.

On top of these and other measures that might make educators feel a bit beleaguered, North Carolina has had trouble offering competitive salaries to its teachers (the state sets the pay scale for all NC teachers). For years, a career teacher in North Carolina would actually take an annual pay cut in real dollars. At one point the legislature offered teachers a raise—if they would give up the due process protections commonly known as tenure. 

Mid-decade, I sat at dinner with a former student and seven other young professionals in Charlotte, North Carolina. Six were former teachers; they had each decided there were far better ways to make a living in the Tar Heel State.

The rules implemented by the legislature, says Parmenter, “made it less and less attractive for people to become teachers.” Enrollment in teacher prep programs began dropping. Faced with the problem, Parmenter says the approach was, “Instead of addressing the reason that nobody wants to go to college to become a teacher anymore, what could we do to approach it in a different way.”

The result: in 2017 the state legislature formed the Professional Educator Standards and Preparation Commission (PEPSCPSC -0.5%) to make recommendations on how to expand teacher preparation programs, create an accountability system for those programs, and to “reorganize and clarify” the licensure process.

For a year or so, PEPSC tinkered with the small edges of policy recommendations. And then in 2018, a whole bunch of other folks got interested.

At this crucial point, I am going to ask you to go to the link and open the article. One of the major players in this fiasco is SAS, a student evaluation system based in North Carolina, which stands to make a whole lot of money if the proposed system is adopted. The Gates Foundation, despite having failed in all of its previous efforts to implement a successful merit pay plan or test-based teacher evaluation program, became a player.

As you read the story unfold, you will see the strenuous efforts by the corporate actors to keep the whole nasty business secret. They encouraged their partners to speak cheerfully and positively about the changes they had in store for the state’s teachers. Justin Parmenter got his information by filing Freedom of Information suits.