Thursday, December 12, 2013

N.C. 25 percent law: Headaches, costs and questions

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board spent an hour last night hashing through the state law that phases out teacher tenure.

The gist boils down to three words:  What a mess.

The law,  passed this summer,  requires school districts to offer four-year contracts that include $500-a-year raises to 25 percent of teachers who have worked three consecutive years and earned  "proficient" job ratings.  Teachers who accept those contracts have to voluntarily sign away their  "career status"  rights,  which will disappear for all teachers in 2018.

Districts across the state have spent the ensuing months grappling with how to put that into practice,  looking at everything from who qualifies as a teacher to how you choose one in four without getting sued,  Superintendent Heath Morrison and CMS lawyer Jonathan Sink told the board.  (Read the presentation here.)

"It is one of the most complicated pieces of legislation I have ever seen,"  Morrison said.

" 'Complicated' is being very nice,"  responded board member Ericka Ellis-Stewart.

Ellis-Stewart is a Democrat,  and the 25 percent law is a creation of the Republican-dominated state legislature.  But frustration on the local board was bipartisan.

Vice chair Tim Morgan,  a Republican,  noted that teachers have vowed to fight the law in court.  "I hold no animosity toward the teachers who are going to be bringing the lawsuit,"  Morgan said,  looking at a handful of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators officers in the audience.

Morgan noted that CMS will likely be forced to spend county tax money defending a system that local officials didn't create and don't support  --  "dollars that would be better spent in the classroom."

Morrison repeatedly told the board he believes lawmakers'  intentions were good,  but said the plan is rife with confusion and unintended consequences.

Sink said several lawmakers have told him their intent was to reward and motivate classroom teachers.  But the state attorney general has ruled that the legal definition of  "teacher"  includes other certified people in instructional roles,  such as counselors,  social workers,  media specialists  (aka librarians)  and deans of students.  In CMS that's more than 10,000 people.

Once you rule out those who haven't worked three consecutive years,  you're looking at more than 6,000.  CMS currently has 5,789  "teachers"  who meet the three-year requirement and have no rating lower than proficient,  HR Chief Terri Cockerham said.

The district calculates that 25 percent of eligible teachers will come to about 1,500 people who will be offered the contract and raise.  And that poses the central question:  How do you sort the 25 percent who get the offer from the 75 percent who don't?

The obvious method,  taking those with the highest ratings,  won't work.  The district calculated that 45 percent of teachers have no rating below  advanced  or  distinguished,  which are higher than proficient.  Morrison noted that a literal reading of the law,  which says no teachers can get the contract offer unless they've shown effectiveness  "as demonstrated by proficiency on the teacher evaluation"  might eliminate those who are above proficient,  though the legislators clearly intended proficiency to be the minimum.

CMS administrators and teachers are looking at other criteria,  such as National Board Certification,  attendance records and the difficulty of filling the positions.  Morgan,  who is on the board of the N.C. School Boards Association,  said some districts have considered offering the contracts to the most experienced eligible teachers,  while others say it makes more sense to offer them to the newest and lowest-paid in hopes of enticing them to stay.

Board member Tom Tate captured the general sense of confusion and frustration when the discussion began.  "My question is how is this helping us?"  Tate asked.  "How much time and energy are we putting into this that we ought to be putting into other things?  Is it going to be a net gain or a net loss?"

So what comes next?  This post is running long, so come back tomorrow for a look at the race against the clock.


Shelly said...

So, only 25% of the teachers are worthy? Then, 75% are not doing a good enough job. How's that work? How does that look? Hopefully, this will be revisited and the legislature will see what a debacle. Let's give it to the teachers with 26 years and allow them to build their retirement fund. The state will then be on the hook for their increased retirement pay. That will show them.

Wiley Coyote said...

...Morgan Morgan noted that CMS will likely be forced to spend county tax money defending a system that local officials didn't create and don't support -- "dollars that would be better spent in the classroom."

...Tate asked. "How much time and energy are we putting into this that we ought to be putting into other things? Is it going to be a net gain or a net loss?"

No different than other failed programs implemented by CMS and government in general in the past.

Add this one to the list.

Anonymous said...

What should have happened is that the legislature should have just said tenure ends as of 12/31/2014 and been done with it. This is one of the reasons that government will NEVER be able to do anything efficiently; elected officials come up with these crazy schemes to phase things in over longe periods of time so that the public forgets what is happening.
Tenure needs to go away, permanently. It is the creation of teacher unions (which don't exist in NC) to protect imcompetent teachers.

Cany Cane said...

This is certainly a waste of everyone's time and money, and goes to show you the lack of efficiency and common sense in our government today. The teachers are the ones ultimately paying the price for all of this nonsense.

Anonymous said...

It's always fun hearing people who spend most of their lives wasting money on things that have nothing to do with educating children in the classroom suddenly having a crisis of conscience about money being spent on something else. The money spent on this will be the equivalent of a grain of sand on a beach compared to the money wasted on various pet programs, projects and positions created just to get somebodies connected buddy a job. Save the public whining for those of us who don't know better.

Shamash said...

"Morrison noted that a literal reading of the law, which says no teachers can get the contract offer unless they've shown effectiveness "as demonstrated by proficiency on the teacher evaluation" might eliminate those who are above proficient, though the legislators clearly intended proficiency to be the minimum."

Well, now we all know why Morrison was rated as merely "proficient" in HIS evaluation...

Anonymous said...

It certainly sounds as though it is unnecessarily complex. I also sound as though it was an effort to mollify teachers who would prefer that tenure not end at all.

The simple and more direct path would be to simply end tenure now. The reality is that the reason behind the concept of tenure -academic freedom- makes some sense at the level of colleges and universities, where classroom content is largely in the hands of professors. It makes absolutely no sense in primary and secondary education, however, where the curricula are completely controlled by the state.

Aubrey Moore said...

I have said, and I contend, this, along with other actions on teacher employment, will, if enforced, make the uncommitted, unmotivated teachers kings and queens. My daughter-in-law noted on a questionnaire about this phase of the law, when asked if she would accept the money and give up the tenure, He## No! I can not imagine any teacher worth their salt saying otherwise. So, who will? You guessed it, those who see teaching as a gravy train.

Just think, now you can get a bad degree, go into teaching and earn as much as the teacher who gets advanced degrees, national certification, and you can sell out your profession by passing them on the pay scale by playing to the warped laws.

And, as we are learning, the highly motivated teachers are just wanting out because they now realize that teaching is no longer worth the massive effort they were willing to spend.

Anonymous said...

So Morgan thinks "dollars would be better spent in the classroom"

That is the familar and consistent refrain from educrats making 6 figures a year when somebody tells them to spend money they don't want to spend.

They would rather spend it on things like buses to cart the little darlings all over the county so they leave home in the dark and get back in the dark. Or on multimillion dollar football stadiums or the latest social engineering fad.

They have no intention of "spending it in the classroom."

Shamash said...

Don't you realize...

The football field IS the classroom.

For our future leaders.

No pointy-headed academics need apply...

And the buses are there so English majors have jobs when they graduate from college.

Anonymous said...

Didn't CMS decide national board certification was nearly worthless? It's hard to believe that they would consider using that to choose people for bonuses.

Anonymous said...

The most incompetent legislature in the history of this state! They have done harm to teachers that will take YEARS to repair - if ever!

Anonymous said...

BTW - tenure in NC does NOT protect bad teachers! It merely provides due process rights so that GOOD teachers do not get booted out at the whim of a hostile administrator. Who would NOT want to protect that?!

Anonymous said...

Lets face it folks with morons like Morgan and Stewart at the helm the state can do what they want. Not one young person is going to choose to become a teacher in the future. It is running the route exactly how Mr. Bill Gates has been pushing it. Technology based and all you need is a babysitter not a educated teacher. Set them up in cubes like a Walmart and that is your future. Thank You CMS BOE for allowing this to happen you whining babies.

Anonymous said...

Firing a bad teacher is not that difficult even with Tenure. I worked with a CMS principal that did it twice in two years. It does take a little work, but, the principal has to really want to do it.

Anonymous said...

What about the teachers not in a renewal year that only get evaluated on Standards 1and 4? Will they be at a disadvantage against those teachers that are evaluated on all Standards? Just another thought.

Carol S. said...

This will all be a non-issue when CMS fully institutes the BYOT plan, Bring Your Own Teacher to school. Each room will have a "room monitor" being paid minimum wage. Sounds like a good plan to me.

Anonymous said...

BYOT-bring your our teacher-so funny. Almost as funny as bringing in your own technology.

Problems are CMS are spreading like wildfire...even to the dreaded suburbs.

Anonymous said...

You people who have never been teachers or work for CMS really need to just shut it... seriously...just shut up for the love of all that's holy.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, because taxpayers and parents should just stay out of the schools.

And just send in their tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

My tax dollars pay for schools too...and they paid for the bank bailouts too, but you don't see teachers in the banks telling them how to do their jobs. My tax dollars pay for all sorts of stuff just like yours do, if you want to use that worn out argument, but when you talk about what a teacher should or shouldn't do...or how teachers shouldn't have any due process protections like MOST employees in career professions do across the country...unless you have been a teacher or worked in this system then you really have no freakin' clue what you are talking about...just like I wouldn't really be able to tell a banker or doctor or waitress, plumber, carpenter, or ANYONE else how to do the jobs they trained for and are experts in...A favorite line from a tv show when I was a child seems appropriate here..."kiss my grits!"

Anonymous said...

This seems to be a whole lot to do about nothing. Teachers do not have tenure in NC, they have career status. From what I have read, career status is not much more protection or due process than any major employer would have though their HR department. This is not Chicago, Boston, New York, LA or Philadelphia. Teachers do not have negotiated contracts, unions or the right to strike. I am as conservative as they come but this seems misguided. NC does not have a problem getting rid of teachers. They seem pretty good at that….. NC has a problem keeping teachers.

Anonymous said...


Do you investigate ANYTHING in CMS? Powerschool (Teachers Gradebooks) was down from Friday until this Thursday morning. I have received numerous requests from parents about their students grades. Multiply this thoughout the district and you have thousands of parent requests.

Do you believe that CMS administration would put out a public statement or something on the website to help inform parents of the situation?


Whats worse is that their was absolutely no SUPPORT provided to the teachers, who get to field the constant barage of parent emails. Combine the time spent responding to parent emails with the time wasted not being able to put in student grades and you have one huge mess.

CMS you continue to slap teachers in the face. Now you wont even put out a simple statement to alleviate this burden on the teachers. Way to keep on top of things ANN.

Anonymous said...

...and PowerSchool is going BACK down tomorrow for the rest of the weekend...FYI

Wiley Coyote said...

The status quo was re-elected to the Board of Education.

You get what you vote for. Now you have to live with it.

Anonymous said...

and PowerSchool will be down

again and

again and

again and


Anonymous said...

5:37pm I hate to break it to you but most of these comments are coming from people who know CMS very well, from the inside.

Anonymous said...

I'll take the bait. At least the bus drivers have a union and make substantially more than most of us. The continued attempt at pithy humor has become a exponentially weary barrage of verbal flatulence. I'll enjoy riding the bus on another continent where teaching English to non speakers is actually appreciated. Meanwhile, keep Wiley on his toes.

Anonymous said...

"At Community House, some students take advantage of the CMS “bring your own technology” policy and use their own phones and tablets in class."

The tech fad is not all butterflies and rainbows as portrayed by CMS and the CO. These devices create constant distractions for the students, who are all quite adept at multitasking during class.

ABC123 said...

Just read the Tech articles, the digital devices come at a cost, and not just a financial one.

Recent reports state the US now ranks 20th for high school math and literacy scores. Wait, aren't these the same kids who have computers and digital devices at home and at school? How can this be?

Technology can take the actual learning out of learning and make a brain very lazy.

Philip said...

I'm all for saving the trees and not using textbooks anymore, but what happened to good, old fashioned science labs? Do any of our kids do actual science labs at school anymore, or do they just read about it?

Anonymous said...

I regret who I voted for… Thom Tillis…. A top down Neocon who got into politics because he wanted a mountain bike park in his suburb. He has made it his mission in life to go after teachers. He doesn’t realizes this isn’t Maryland. Teachers here are not spoiled union members. He also had a fun raiser with Karl Rove. The brain trust of the Neocons. If it wasn’t for them Obama wouldn’t have looked attractive to independent voters. I am sick of the media calling the current republican congress “ Tea party” members. Tillis is a classic Neocon from inside the DC beltway and I am afraid he’s turning Governor Pat into one.

Anonymous said...

Just completed my LAST final! Praxis 2 on Monday. God willing, I'll be a certified K-6 classroom teacher by Easter. Despite it all, I'm joyous.

The Courage to Teach.


Anonymous said...

9:24 PM

Coming full circle...

Actually, there is a huge "reform" push in elementary Science Education towards "Inquiry Learning" which is basically what I did in science growing up - dissecting frogs, stabbing insects, digging up dirt, boiling ice cubes (as a matter of the three stages of matter), blowing the tops off of things using staples found in your kitchen, creating static electricity using a balloon, and looking at gross things in a petri-dish under a microscope before melting jelly beans on a George Forman grill to demonstrate The Rock Cycle!


Anonymous said...

Forgot lighting stuff on fire and dropping things off of buildings! ....


BolynMcClung said...


I can still hear Andy Baxter explaining Dr. Gorman's Pay-for-Performance plan. He said teachers could be divided into three groups.

1.)) The bottom 25%
2.)) The middle 50%
3.)) The top 25%

The most important thing he said was CMS didn't care about the bottom 25%. CMS was interested in learning why the top group was so good and how could they use that information to make the middle 50% better.

Note that when Gorman announced the plan there wasn't a nickel for bonuses. His goal was to increase student achievement through a better core of classroom teachers. Well, the teachers didn't see it that way. Neither did the General Assembly.

The legislature said lets just pay the top 25% and forget about how to improve the rest of the teaching core.

If I were Dr. Morrison, I'd not worry about who is in the top twenty-five percent. I'd spend my time with the following Common Core math problem.

There is a school that has only four teachers. All the teachers were hired the same day. All have master degrees. All are National Board certified.

Teacher 1's students were all 4's, made straight A's.
Teacher 2's students were all 4's, made straight A's.
Teacher 3's students were all 4's, made straight A's.
Teacher 4's students were all 4's, made straight A's.

Teacher 1 got a multi-year contract and was promised a 25% bonus,
Teacher 2 got no contract and no bonus
Teacher 3 got no contract and no bonus
Teacher 4 was put on probation.

Explain why teachers 2, 3 and 4 got the better deal.

Hint: After 1 year only one teacher was working at the school.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...


"And the buses are there so English majors have jobs when they graduate from college".

For $500 NC legislator "effective" teaching dollars (which equals calculator active 0.73 cents a day), Ann Doss Helms majored in:

1. Biology
2. Business
3. Musical Theatre
4. English and Journalism


Anonymous said...


In NC, "effective" teachers are worth an extra $1.36 a day!


Shamash said...

Anon 8:43pm.

If you're serious about teaching in another continent, I'd suggest Asia. Most students are really serious about learning English.

And many of them know English grammar better than the typical American.

If you have little to no entrepreneurial spirit (or are a clean freak and "credentialed" out the wazoo), I'd suggest Japan or Korea for the stability and bucks.

But if you want to really rake in the cash, try starting your own school in China or Vietnam.

All you really need to do in most cases is have a four-year degree and be a native English speaker.

I know a couple of English majors who went to China back in the 1990's and now own and run a chain of about 50 or so schools in SE Asia.

I helped them "stabilize" a few schools a decade or so ago, just before they went whole hog corporate with a huge expansion effort.

They have their own curriculum now and you'll have to follow their rules, though.

Oddly enough, a lot of "certified" teachers can't handle that, but then they can't open and run 50 schools in a foreign country, either.

At one time they were franchising, but I'm not sure if they still do that.

Or you could just go somewhere and try to start your own school.

Again, no guarantees of success, though.

And apologies if this reply isn't "pithy" enough.

(I only have two modes, pithy humor or long-winded BS.)

Anonymous said...

Shamash, we have education experts running our schools. Cant' you tell by the results?

Shamash said...


Well, it's not like teachers don't know what they're getting into with the job.

If not, then they do by now.

And I'm sure YOU know what you're getting into by becoming a teacher.

But, it's mostly a government job first with all that entails (at least for the public schools).

While some have complained here that teachers don't have "due process" like OTHER professionals, I guess they haven't had the privilege of working for an engineering company when the projects stop.

In that environment, "due process" is getting to fold your own cardboard box to take home your belongings the same day you're laid off and shown the door.

And it doesn't matter how many degrees or years experience you have.

You just do not have "tenure".

In fact, the older and more experienced you are, the more likely you are to get the ax.

Given a choice, most companies will show the 50+ year old engineers the door.

I've seen that happen hundreds of times in several companies I've worked for.

As for pensions, well the first engineering company I worked for in the early 1980's had its pension fund raided.

Some of the "professional" engineers I knew got "annuity" checks of less than $100/year.

Shamash said...

"Shamash, we have education experts running our schools. Cant' you tell by the results?"

Well, there are always options out there if you'd rather work for a teacher (or be your own boss).

If I were an English major or maybe even an Education major, I'd probably not stick around the US.

It didn't used to be that way, but teaching seems to be following the tech model for hiring folks with IT "skills".

Right before I started working as a computer programmer (in the late 1970's), some of the people I interviewed with admitted that they had been hiring English and Philosophy majors as computer programmers.

They taught them the programming skills on the job because they valued the intelligence and logic skills developed by those majors.

They knew they could do the programming work with a little training.

We can't imagine anyone doing that today.

That all changed in the 1980's as more and more people got into the IT game and fewer IT managers came from within the ranks.

Many had no idea how to do the work or how to evaluate employees skills.

Kinda like teaching today, eh?

At that point, pre-ordained, officially "certified" IT employees became the norm, making them pretty much plug-and-play from a managers perspective.

"Tell HR I'll need 6 MCSA's, 2 PMP's and 1 CISSP for a year".

And now, it's best to be a someone with a dubious computer degree from an unknown school in India on a H1-B visa if you want a programming job.

Don't be surprised when that happens to teaching as well.

Get your Microsoft Certified Instructor training and you, too, can run your own online academy serving thousands.

Anonymous said...

Alicia, anyone who has heard me sing could quickly eliminate option 3!

Anonymous said...

Interesting point about the middle 50%.

Ties in with the 5 kids who receive gifted services, the 5 kids who receive special education services, and the 10 kids who receive nothing extra.


Anonymous said...

Ok, but the song and dance Student Placement Office numbers routine you're trying to master qualifies you for an honorary minor.


Anonymous said...

"Don't cry for me, Scott McCully ..."