A task force created by the General Assembly last summer to study teacher pay and effectiveness will hold its final meeting in Raleigh today to wrap up a report for state lawmakers.
So will we finally get a look at North Carolina's long-range plan for identifying and rewarding the best educators?
"It's heavier on goals and principles and thin on specifics," said state Rep. Rob Bryan, a Mecklenburg Republican who co-chairs the task force. He said the state is still early in the process of working through an issue that has challenged politicians and educators across the country.
Watching North Carolina and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools slog toward pay reform feels a bit like watching "Groundhog Day," without the assurance of a happy ending. Over and over, study groups convene and conclude that the issue needs more study.
The big picture is the easy part. Is it essential to identify the teachers who make the biggest difference for kids? Absolutely. Should they be rewarded for excellence? Of course. Do N.C. teachers deserve a raise and a better pay system? Most would say yes.
The stumper is how to identify those teachers, how to distribute the rewards and above all how to pay for it. Last summer the state legislature created the much-reviled 25 percent plan as a first step and charged the task force with taking a longer view.
Bryan said his group is interested in getting local districts to create their own pay plans, perhaps with a state fallback for those that can't or won't. That's in line with what CMS is seeking as an alternative to the state-mandated four-year contracts and $500-a-year raises for 25 percent of qualified teachers.
But it was just over a year ago that the state invited local districts to submit performance pay plans for consideration. CMS was initially gung-ho, appointing (of course) a teacher task force and hiring consultants to study the issue. But ultimately the district missed the deadline and said there was little point creating a detailed plan without state money to make it happen.
What we've seen so far is a series of pilots and experiments that fizzle when the money runs out. The conclusion is inevitably that the effort needs more study -- and more money.
Today's meeting will at least bring a new visual device: College students putting 10-foot ladders outside the legislative building to illustrate the need to "rebuild the ladder" to the teaching profession. Lynn Bonner of the News & Observer wins this week's round of "identify that advocacy group;" click here to see what she found out about who's behind Students For Education Reform-North Carolina and who's footing the bills.