NEWS & OBSERVER: Governor Pat McCrory Calls for Higher Standards
August 1, 2013
By Jane Stancill
CHAPEL HILL — Gov. Pat McCrory outlined his plans for education Thursday, including a proposed $30 million innovation fund that would reward 1,000 top teachers with $10,000 stipends.
He called for a sharp reduction in standardized testing in North Carolina classrooms and pledged his support for the Common Core learning standards that have been a target for conservative critics, including Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.
Speaking to a friendly audience at a state chamber of commerce conference in Chapel Hill, McCrory maintained that he is pro-education and a supporter of teachers. Outside, a crowd of educators and others protested, wearing red T-shirts and waving placards. Earlier this week, angry teachers traveled by bus to the state Capital, where they demonstrated against the Republican state budget that eliminated 3,850 teacher assistants, ended extra pay for teachers with masters degrees and phased out teacher tenure.
“Education is more than testing, pay scales and rankings,” McCrory said. “It’s about unleashing teachers and focusing on outcomes that will produce highly qualified workers for well-paying jobs.”
The governor’s proposed innovation fund would also spend money on digital learning and innovative schools, said McCrory, a Republican. About $4 million would come from the recently approved state budget; the rest would have to come from changes to North Carolina’s Race to the Top grant award, which would require federal approval by a Democratic administration.
Master teachers who receive the stipends would be chosen by their peers, McCrory said, and would give direct feedback to policymakers about what works best in the classroom. “We want to get input from the best of the best,” he said.
The innovation fund would represent a move toward teacher compensation based on performance, McCrory said, away from what he called an archaic pay scale.
“Productive teachers whose students achieve higher academic outcomes are paid the very same as teachers who do just enough to possibly get by,” he said. “Teachers are not a class, but professionals who should be rewarded based on their individual value to their students and their school.”
McCrory said the issue of flat teacher pay has worsened under both Republican and Democratic leadership, and North Carolina’s low teacher pay ranking was not much different now than in recent years under Democrats.
“It was unacceptable then and it’s unacceptable now,” McCrory said.
The governor also said he wants to free teachers from what he described as “ineffective and very burdensome” testing. He said he wants to spend the next year working to eliminate many, but not all, standardized tests.
“When do teachers teach, if all they’re doing is giving tests?” he asked. “This is the feedback we’re getting, and we’re listening. With this testing load we are turning our teachers into proctors. We need to slow down and regroup with all these tests and let our teachers teach.”
The governor expressed his approval of the Common Core State Standards on reading and math, which have been adopted by 45 states but have recently been bashed by some conservative commentators and state legislatures. McCrory said the standards are high and relevant.
“It’s not the standards that are bad, it’s the execution which must be improved here in North Carolina,” he said.
State Superintendent June Atkinson said she is glad McCrory supports the Common Core standards. “It is important for our teachers and communities to recognize that they are rigorous standards and we need to move forward.”