North Carolina ends teacher tenure and automatic pay increases for master’s degrees

by Grace

In a bold move, North Carolina ends teacher tenure and automatic pay increases for master’s degrees.

The legislation targets a compensation mechanism that is common in the U.S., where teachers receive automatic pay increases for years of service and advanced degrees. Some research has suggested those advanced degrees don’t lead to improved teaching….

… experts say North Carolina is believed to be the first state to do so.

The budget bill—which drew hundreds of teachers to the Capitol in protest earlier this week—also eliminates tenure for elementary and high-school teachers and freezes teacher salaries for the fifth time in six years.

Now the “best and the brightest” will avoid teaching careers?

Tim Barnsback, a teacher at Heritage Middle School in Valdese, N.C., said, “Morale is going to be at an all-time low” due to the new policies and budget. “The best and the brightest aren’t going to go into the profession,” he added.

This legislation was passed after the “GOP gained control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in 144 years”.  This latest state budget allocates 56% toward education, a 1% increase over last year.

Advanced degrees don’t generally improve student achievement levels.

A number of studies have shown that teachers with advanced degrees don’t, necessarily, produce higher student achievement than teachers who hold only a bachelor’s. Other studies have shown an advantage to holding a master’s in math and the sciences for high-school teachers. About 28% of North Carolina teachers hold master’s degrees.

This move could have the positive effect of doing away with mediocre master’s programs.

Glenn Reynolds points out “there are a lot of programs — particularly in education colleges — that exist largely to serve the automatic-pay-raise-for-degree market”.  One study showed that about $14.8 was spent in the 2007-08 school year on “the master’s bump for teachers”.

Automatic pay raises don’t reward top teachers.

It must be tough to go without a raise for five years, but many workers in the private sector have experienced the same thing.  Many have suffered salary cuts and layoffs.  It’s been a tough recession, coupled with a “jobless” recovery.  Automatic pay increases across the board seem like an anachronistic luxury, as well as an ineffective way to reward top teachers.

Related:  ‘we need to be able to say out loud that some teachers are better than others’ (Cost of College)


2 Comments to “North Carolina ends teacher tenure and automatic pay increases for master’s degrees”

  1. While I actually think that getting rid of automatic raises for master’s degrees is a good idea, I think the way this is being done will drive away better teachers. This is purely punitive in tone, with nothing attractive being offered to replace the things being taken away. When I worked in private industry, when we were having trouble getting good candidates, we offered incentives – we didn’t take incentives away! And I notice that in industries that care about the quality of their workers, such as software and finance, the employees are getting raises, and bonuses too.

    It was this kind of action at the state level that drove me and many other talented people (at least I like to think I was good) out of public universities in the 90’s. After years of refusing to fund negotiated raises, ugly rhetoric about lazy state employees, and constant budget cuts, many of us felt we were not valued and realized that industry valued us more. I think that is what you will see happen in NC – the people who are good and can get jobs elsewhere will, and the worst will stay for lack of options. It is sad, because NC was once a beacon in the South for public education.


  2. You make a good point, and I would have liked to see some incentives for good teaching included in this legislation. Of course, states seem to have great difficulty creating ways to measure teacher effectiveness, but that’s another problem altogether.

    Maybe North Carolina will soon create (or already has) some incentive for good teachers. They could even start with a program that would reward the top 10-20% of performers, which might be a way to keep the best teachers from leaving.


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