Local News

Incentive program turns teachers into masters

Posted January 29, 2009 6:09 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— A Wake County school is the first in North Carolina to try out a national program designed to attract better teachers with higher pay and more opportunities for professional development.

The key to the Teacher Advancement program is giving teachers time during the school day to meet and brainstorm about classroom strategies, said Jacquiline Grant, a teacher at Wilburn Elementary in Raleigh.

Together, teachers seek methods that are "an improvement over the way we've taught in the past," Grant said.

TAP gives teachers time for "coming together in that collaborative piece and having staff development in-house and not having to go outside," Grant said.

Under TAP, educators train to specialize as master, career or mentor teachers and earn $5,000 to $9,000 more a year.

Master teachers, such as Grant, act as leaders among their colleagues, but are not responsible for as many extra tasks as administrators. Mentor teachers work closely with their colleagues, while career teachers pursue extra professional-development opportunities.

Wilburn students are already bearing fruit from the improved instruction methods teachers have learned, Grant said. Math teacher Stacy Torno employed a new teaching strategy for one lesson on fractions, Grant said, and all her fourth-graders scored a 3 – indicating proficiency – on a test of the material.

Principal Jennifer Carnes said TAP has also helped her faculty improve themselves as educators.

"Both the students and teachers have become more focused. Teachers are more focused on what they're doing and how exactly it's impacting student achievement," Carnes said.

Educators said such incentives are needed to draw better teachers. A recent study by the National Council on Teacher Quality gave North Carolina an overall C-minus for recruiting and retaining effective teachers and getting rid of ineffective ones.

The Milken Family Foundation created TAP in 1999 to address the nation's teacher shortage and lack of professional development and support.

Administrators found funding for teacher incentives by reallocating money that Wilburn Elementary gets from the federal Title I program, which goes toward high-poverty schools.