RALEIGH: McCrory advisor says future of NC schools 'bright' - WNCN: News, Weather

McCrory advisor says future of NC schools 'bright'

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Gov. Pat McCrory's Senior Education Advisor Eric Guckian. Gov. Pat McCrory's Senior Education Advisor Eric Guckian.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Despite the growing concern over the teacher turnover rate in North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory's senior education advisor Eric Guckian says the governor's administration plans to turn the tide.

Half-way through the school year, Wake County Public Schools saw a 40 percent increase in teacher turnover, which means the school district has 1,500 vacancies to fill in a force of 10,000. A lot of that turnover has been attributed to frustrations over flat teacher pay.

"I think you need to do a number of things. And I think one of the things we're focused on is obviously teacher compensation," Guckian said. "We are in a situation where, due to the recession and due to the events of the last 10 years really, we've got some making up to do."

The "making up" that Guckian mentioned will come in the form of McCrory's new education initiatives that were announced in May. The goal is to implement the new initiatives statewide by 2018.

"We can't just continue to invest in a model that's a century old. We have to innovate," Guckian said.

Guckian suggested modernizing the teacher pay scale to allow teachers to earn more money earlier in their careers. It also would provide a "career pathways" component that would reward teachers for improving student achievement.

"Sixty-five percent of our fourth graders in North Carolina do not read at grade level -- are not proficient readers," Guckian explained. "I have a rising fourth grader at home and that's something that concerns me. And I think it should be of particular concern when thinking about the economic development of our state."

Guckian said the new system would provide local school districts with more power in determining teacher raises. Educators who prove themselves as leaders in their schools and who mentor their colleagues could get paid more.

Teachers could also earn more money if they teach high-need subjects like math and science, or if they teach at a high-need school.

"What we're talking about when the governor made his announcement to teachers is a high-performing teacher earning as much as $75,000, $80,000, $90,000 based on all of those factors," Guckian said.

But is the governor's plan just a Band-Aid for solving the current problem?

"I think it's neither," Guckian said. "It looks at this as the complex problem that it is. We're not going to mandate this from Raleigh, we're going to work together. We're going to draw on national best practice and expertise, and I think it's a long-term strategy."

In the short-term, budget analysts estimate that McCrory's teacher pay plan will cost more than $300 million during next year alone. Some wonder if that's responsible in the current economic climate.

But Guckian said "it's absolutely responsible."

"There's no greater investment that we can make," Guckian said. "I think what the governor has laid out is sustainable, it's fiscally conservative, it's fiscally responsible, but we have to do this over a period of time."

Guckian said the state is "going through a real transitional time," but its future is bright.

"I think if we stay focused on student outcomes, and we stay focused on ensuring our teachers are supported and that they have opportunities to succeed and improve through career pathways, I think we will continue to set the pace not only nationally, but internationally," he said.

Still, Guckian said he understands that North Carolina has to do better.

"I'd give us a C+ right now in terms of where we are. I think we've got a lot of work to do."

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Sean Maroney

Sean anchors WNCN News at 6, 7 & 11 PM. Raised in North Carolina, he returns home after nearly a decade reporting around the world. Each night, he brings his love of this community and powerful journalism into our newsroom and your home.

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