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A School Report Needing Wider Attention

Thanks to Betsy at her blog Betsy’s Page, and reported in more depth by Civitas Institute, we learn:

“Data presented at a May 17th work session of the Wake County School Board showed that significant percentages of Wake County’s high performing teachers have neither an advanced degree or National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification.”

The Civitas report made several other points:

  • “For the longest time, educators have held that teachers with additional training –master’s degrees, doctoral degrees or national board teacher certification — are the best teachers and should be compensated accordingly.”
  • “Quoted in an article on the subject in the Raleigh News & Observer, Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata highlights the significance of the study’s results: “an important point is we pay extra for board certified teachers and the advance degree teachers receive extra but the high-performing teachers receive nothing.”
  • “As the state’s largest school district, the WCPSS findings are likely to reignite the debate over teacher pay.  The Wake School Board has requested additional information about the study and is expected to return to the issue again later this year.”

There seems to be a wide-range of opinion on the meaning of the data presented to the Wake County School Board. Much of the debate centers on the system used to rate the Wake County teachers, a system called Education Value-Added Assessment System, or EVAAS. For more information, you can read more about it in a two-part series at the Raleigh Public Record (Part I is here and Part II is here). The online news source began their Part I report this way:

“Last week, the Wake County Board of Education learned that the district’s most effective teachers are not teaching its lowest-performing students.

“Assistant Superintendent for Evaluation and Research David Holdzkom presented board members with several maps showing the distribution of high-performing, National Board-certified and masters degreed teachers across the county.

“The maps showed that high-performing teachers were concentrated in more affluent areas, while low-performing students clustered in less wealthy sections of the county."

WRAL TV5 in Raleigh also reported on the Wake County school system’s “drafts of student assignment plans.”

You may be wondering why this should be of interest to Arlington County taxpayers. A look at the Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) report for FY 2011 shows that the average Arlington teacher salary is $73,742, or $4,897 higher than in Alexandria, it’s nearest rival for average salary. Looking further, you see the Arlington average is $8,742 higher than the rough average of teacher salaries in Falls Church and Fairfax County. In addition, an Arlington Public Schools teacher with a master’s degree (step 1) makes $4,502 more than a teacher with a bachelor’s degree (step 1).

With 2,035 teachers in the Arlington Public Schools during the 2010-2011 school year, if the additional salary used to pay for teachers with advance degrees or for certified teachers were used instead to pay for high performing teachers, it’s very possible that somewhere between $9.2 million and $17.8 million could be available to provide significant incentives for those high performing teachers.

Would significantly larger financial incentives encourage greater competition from high performing teachers? We think so, and it’s something that should be thoroughly discussed by the Arlington School Board, especially given the likelihood of higher student performance.

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