Berger proposal would end career status for teachers

Posted March 19, 2013

— Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger would do away with tenure for public school teachers under broad education reform plan he filed Tuesday.

Under the measure, experienced, well-performing teachers could be put on four-year contracts, while less experienced educators or teachers who are not performing up to standard would be placed on shorter contracts.

"What we're concerned about is the incentives that are out there and trying to make sure we have incentives for folks to excel as much as possible," Berger, R-Rockingham, said during a news conference.

A place-holder provision in his bill allows for the continued development of pay-for-performance rules that were put in place during the last legislative session. In legislation passed last year, lawmakers ordered the state Department of Public Instruction and local school districts to develop teacher evaluation plans. Berger said those plans should be turned in by the end of this year. His bill calls for using those evaluation schemes in awarding bonuses to teachers.

"It would be my understanding and my thought that, to the extent that we're paying for excellence, there would be additional dollars for that, and I don't see there be any push for reducing the dollars that teachers are currently making," Berger said.

He said the state would need to move cautiously on putting the pay-for-performance plan in place. Agreements signed with the federal government to reap "Race to the Top" funds may require the U.S. Department of Education to sign off any changes to teacher pay before they're put in place.

The North Carolina Association of Educators took issue with the bill Tuesday.

"Students need smaller class sizes, professional educators that are given the time and flexibility to teach, parents and communities that support educators and their schools," said NCAE President Rodney Ellis. "This bill takes away fairness, eliminates due process for teachers, and will make it harder to recruit quality people to enter the profession. Educators deserve better than punitive labeling, or a bill that is designed to erode public confidence. We do not accept the premise that public schools are failing."

The major provisions in Senate Bill 361 are not new. Rather, they are pieces of legislation Berger introduced during the 2011 legislative session that did not become law. 

Other provisions of the bill include:

  • Allowing state employees to volunteer for school literacy programs for up to five hours per month.
  • Requiring all end-of-year tests, other than Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams, to be administered during the last 10 days of the school year or the final five days of a semester-long course. 
  • Adding a measure of whether schools are meeting their student achievement growth goals to a school grading system that is due to go into effect this year. The combination of the two measures, Berger said, will help parents tell good schools from bad ones.
  • Requiring the legislature to approve any new tests associated with the Common Core curriculum schools are putting in place before schools can buy the exams.
  • Adding teacher licensing requirements and professional development opportunities dealing with teaching reading skills.

Berger said he expected the bill to be heard in the Senate Education Committee sometime during the next month. Big pieces of his 2011 education reform package were rolled into that year's state budget.


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  • Smilester Mar 22, 2013


    According to this UNBIASED report the "Broken" NC schools actually rank 13th in the country despite being 48th in teacher pay. Hopefully this insanity he is proposing is temporary. Once the damage has been done it is hard to fix it.

  • mcmillancladdaug Mar 21, 2013

    Berger and the GOP is well on his way to getting his wish: North Carolina will be 50th in funding/support for public education. Here we come, Mississippi!

  • birkie74693 Mar 21, 2013

    The conservatives have been trying to ruin public education for years; this is another step in the process. They want to keep driving good teachers out of the profession, or to other states. The idea of "evaluating teachers' performance" sounds good on the surface, but there is NO WAY to do it. And removing the (slight) protection that tenure affords just worsens the already miserable lives of most teachers. Mr. Berger thinks anybody who can't afford a good private school doesn't deserve an education.

  • Plenty Coups Mar 20, 2013

    Well said hidden treasures.

  • Plenty Coups Mar 20, 2013

    "If I understand this correctly, teachers with a higher proportion of struggling students will be punished, while those teaching the "best and the brightest" students will be rewarded. Tell me how that is just and fair?"

    Exactly. You can't effectively measure motivation of students to get a fair assessment.

  • kermit60 Mar 20, 2013

    So you get a 4 year degree. Have to follow some legislatures plan (they don't have education degrees). Give tests developed and "approved" by the legislature. Have no control as to the students assigned to you. Have to deal with, behavorial, parental and administrative problems that change almost daily. Have to participate in "after hour" school functions. All this for a whoping salery of thirty thousand or so a year. I don't understand why they don't all quit. You can make more money managing a Taco Bell. But we want the best for our children?

  • Wirklich Mar 20, 2013

    How can you fairly pay more to teachers whose students outperform the norm or exceed a set standard, when there are so many variables the teacher cannot control (parental support, student exposure to outside academic enrichment opportunities, student aptitude, innate focus/motivation/work ethic, etc.)

    If I understand this correctly, teachers with a higher proportion of struggling students will be punished, while those teaching the "best and the brightest" students will be rewarded. Tell me how that is just and fair?

    Suggestion: Our legislators consider enacting "performance based" salaries for THEIR performance. (I say, most of them will be "fired" next election.)

  • MonkeyFace Mar 20, 2013

    You know what I don't understand? Why is it they want teachers to push things down students throats? I want my child to do the best she can, but there is a huge difference in a teacher that cares about her students, and a teacher trying to make numbers. My daughter was attending a school in one county, and the teacher pushed so much into one week. I have a 1st grader, and the 2nd week of school they are doing AR test. It makes no sense to me. We moved 2 hours away, and this school didn't start the AR test until the 2nd six weeks so the students could get use to what they were supposed to do. My daughter has come so much further in the 2nd school setting vs the first. Let our teachers care about the students, and not force them to leave students behind bc they are trying to get numbers.

  • hiddentreasurescruecds Mar 20, 2013

    A few points:

    1. Tenure does not protect a teacher from being fired. It just provides due process.

    2. I'm all for performance based pay if they can find a way to fairly evaluate teachers. How do you fairly evaluate a teacher when there are so many variables that are outside a teacher's control? Anyone?

    3. How long will the state fund performance pay? Schools used to get bonus pay for improving test scores, but then the state "ran out of money". I'm going to take a wild guess and say that unfair evaluations will stay but the performance pay will disappear.

    4. And finally...I'll never understand all the hate and/or apathy towards teachers and public education. Do we as a society really want an uneducated workforce? I realize the "elite" will still be educated in private schools, but what about the vast majority of the population?

  • wisdywon Mar 19, 2013

    It's unbelievable how many arm-chair educators there are out there. It's impossible to evaluate teachers on "performance" of the type Berger purports, and pay teachers based on this "performance" metric. Teaching is not like flipping burgers or mass producing some gadget. It is highly complicated, social work that places teachers in a very similar environment as police officers and social workers. The type of "performance" Berger wants is based on test scores of students. Anyone with an inkling of understanding knows the unintended consequences - teachers teaching to the test, prepping for the test, and coaching for the test. It's like an Asian brand of education but rather than students be held responsible for test outcomes, their teachers are. Teachers should be held to the same "performance" standards as cops and social workers - how well do we give our students the OPPORTUNITY to learn - not be held responsible for what kids and families are supposed to do.