Extended Year Contracts: Helping Students by Helping Teachers
What if we could boost teacher pay, give teachers more time to learn from one another, and help the state’s students, particularly struggling ones, all with one plan?
Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union) and I have been working on a plan that could accomplish all of these things by offering about 40% of the state’s teachers an extended-year contract. These contracts would pay for an extra month of the teacher’s time, boosting their salary 10% over the standard 10-month contract.
Four distinct groups of teachers would be eligible for this plan, with each group having a somewhat different impact on student success. All participating teachers would also benefit from having more time for professional development that can help improve their skills. The four groups are:
Beginning Teachers: We know that teachers learn as much during their first few years in the classroom as they do in their pre-service programs. Currently, most beginning teachers are assigned to a teacher mentor, but the beginning teacher and mentor teacher rarely spend any time together in the classroom because they’re both busy teaching. Adding a summer month to beginning teachers’ contracts would allow them to provide summer learning opportunities to struggling students while teaching alongside their mentor. The beginning teacher would improve and the students would get much needed support. If the summer school took place in the morning, beginning teachers would also have the afternoon to do lesson planning or professional development that would help them become more effective as they launch their careers.
Career Ladder Teacher Mentors: The teachers who would collaborate with beginning teachers in the model described above could also provide meaningful support to other teachers. The time provided through an extended-year contract would allow them to develop and provide professional development to their peers. This would also be a way to keep skilled teachers in the profession and in the classroom, since they wouldn’t have to leave the teacher role to get a pay increase and leadership responsibilities within their school. We have not yet defined how these teachers will be identified and would love to hear ideas from educators.
Teachers in Low-Performing Schools: North Carolina has more than 400 schools that have been labeled as persistently low-performing, and our state has done almost nothing to help these schools and their students. If every teacher in a low-performing school automatically received an extended-year contract, it would provide several benefits. Schools could lengthen their school year, giving much needed additional learning opportunities to some of the students who need it the most. Teachers would have extra time for professional development on things such as addressing trauma in the classroom and culturally relevant teaching, and the automatic 10% pay increase could be an incentive for teachers to work in these challenged and challenging schools.
Select Veteran Teachers: Not every teacher wants to work 11 months a year, but this plan could offer veteran teachers the opportunity to take an extended-year contract every so often – perhaps every five years. This would allow veteran teachers to enhance their existing skills or learn new ones. Programs like the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching or the Kenan Fellows Program could flourish and expand as they could focus their funds on engaging and educating teachers who have the extra time to spend on professional learning. Imagine how a chemistry teacher might change her teaching and curriculum if she got to spend a month working in a lab in Research Triangle Park. Or they could participate in intensive professional development sessions led by the Career Ladder teachers mentioned above.
Although each element of this plan can be enacted in parts, it is prudent to ask how much full implementation would cost. General Assembly staff has estimated that a full roll-out would engage about 40% of teachers statewide. Giving them a 10% increase in pay for their extended contract costs about the same as giving an across the board raise of 4%. To be sure, extra pay for a longer contract is not a raise, and we are not proposing that this plan replace an across the board raise.
Our hope is that implementing a statewide extended-year contract program would do so much more than just increase teacher pay. A statewide program like this would be unique in the United States, returning North Carolina to the forefront of education innovation. It could help draw new people into the profession and help us attract teachers from other states – both critical to our efforts to address North Carolina’s teacher shortage. Most importantly, it would help our students.
I strongly believe this plan could make teachers feel even more like respected professionals and help improve our schools’ and students’ performance. However our plan is just a preliminary one, and it will take creative educators to make it work.
I want to hear from educators about how you might want to use an extended-year contract. Please reach out to me with your ideas.
Graig Meyer is the State Representative for N.C. House District 50. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the News of Orange.