In 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly provided support for several advanced teaching roles and compensation plan [ATR] pilots, with a requirement for evaluation of two components of those pilots: their Academic and Instructional Impact; and their Impact on the Teaching Profession. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction proposed additional evaluation components: a Comparative Analysis of Programs; and Financial and Policy Considerations.
This evaluation report—the fourth and final one commissioned by the North Carolina State Board of Education—summarizes qualitative results from the third year of the initiative and quantitative analyses from the first two years of implementation. In general, most of the qualitative indicators were again positive, and in the areas for which one-year and two-year quantitative estimations were possible there also were continuing signs of positive outcomes.
Even with two years of outcome data available, the evaluation team continues to caution against giving undue weight to the quantitative estimations: The number of directly impacted teachers and students remains small; differences across the six pilots reduce the overall strength of the analyses; analyses are correlational and not causal; and analyses are limited to only two years of data, with some analyses including data from only a few of the pilots.
Quality of Classroom Instruction
Most educators reiterated their belief that teaching practices at their schools had improved as a result of the pilot programs. Lead teachers repeated their impressions from previous years that the pilot programs impacted both school-wide diffusion of best practices and vertical alignment.
These improvements may come at a cost, however; while still higher on average than the EVAAS ratings of their same-school colleagues, EVAAS ratings for some advanced roles teachers fell over time. There may be value in investigating under what circumstances an advanced role takes a toll on a teacher’s instruction, and whether that toll is worth the benefits gained by others (both teachers and students) in the same schools.
Evidence of Student Growth
Students in ATR schools were more likely to exhibit positive changes in performance after both one year and two years of implementation than were students in matched schools, though evidence was stronger and typically only statistically significant for the first year. Most of the improvement appears to have been in student growth rather than proficiency.
Even though preliminary impact estimates are neither consistent nor definitive, they do suggest that the presence of an ATR program has the potential to contribute to positive changes in overall school performance and classroom instruction, if implemented well and with fidelity. However, no single initiative on its own can lead to the ultimate desired result of significant and sustained changes in student outcomes.
Attractiveness of the Teaching Profession
Applications for lead teacher roles remained higher than the number of roles available, and lead teacher turnover was very low. Salary supplements continued to make roles more appealing; they also encouraged some lead teachers to devote extra time to their work and led others to feel that their roles were more professionalized as a result. Prospective teachers identified the opportunity for supplemental pay as the most appealing aspect of the programs. A growing segment of lead teachers did not believe the supplements were adequate for the amount of work expected of them. A subset of teachers continued to be unsupportive of pay differentials for lead teachers.
The salary supplement was not the only attractive aspect of the ATR programs; a notable proportion of teachers identified the opportunity to provide support for other teachers as the primary attraction.
Recognition of High-Quality Classroom Teachers
A large majority of administrators, lead teachers, and teacher colleagues (85% overall) continued to agree that the pilot programs identified high-quality teachers, but focus group data suggest that perceptions about the selection process remained mixed. Concerns remained about whether the lead teacher selection criteria identify the best potential leaders, and whether strict adherence to those criteria always resulted in identifying the best teachers. Perhaps more problematic were persistent instances of teachers who were largely unaware of the selection process. LEAs made adjustments across the three years in response to this feedback.
The pilot LEAs that provided data about applicants appear to have been somewhat selective, opting to leave some lead teacher vacancies unfilled even though there were more than enough applicants. Also, successful ATR applicants appeared to be somewhat stronger than unsuccessful applicants in terms of their Leadership ratings and EVAAS scores across all three years. The EVAAS score gap between successful and unsuccessful applicants did close each year, however—possibly as a result of a strengthening applicant pool over time, but also as a result of the strongest teachers already having been identified in Years 1 and 2.
Retention of High-Quality Classroom Teachers
During the third year of implementation, the pilot programs appeared to continue to influence teachers’ decisions to stay in the classroom. A large majority of lead teachers (82%) remained consistent in their belief that working in an advanced teaching position with supplemental pay increased the likelihood that they would remain in the classroom. In addition, many lead teachers shared that they felt more valued, and some even noted that their advanced roles allowed them to stop supplementing their income with part-time work. Their colleagues indicated that the opportunity to collaborate with lead teachers at their school influenced their decision to continue teaching. Administrators, however, marginally tempered their (still-high) faith in the ability of ATR programs to help them retain high-quality teachers.
Support for and Retention of Beginning Classroom Teachers
Most educators continued to believe that the pilot programs provided support for beginning teachers, particularly in LEAs that were able to provide only a limited number of other supports. Beginning teachers valued the opportunity to work with an experienced colleague on a daily basis, and lead teachers felt that they were able to provide more targeted guidance than could mentors who did not have daily contact. Not surprisingly, lead teachers who felt like they had to apportion their time across multiple responsibilities also felt like they had insufficient time to provide support for beginning teachers.
The strongest recurring theme across the three years was educators’ recognition of the role the pilot programs played in establishing and strengthening a within-school sense of community. In particular, educators reported an increase in cross-grade cohesion and school-wide acceptance of the importance of having a comprehensive coaching process for all teachers.
Recommendations and Closing Thoughts
We believe the State should move forward—cautiously and with deliberation—with finding more ways to support the development and growth of ATR programs.
The pilots with the most comprehensive set of program components most closely address the State’s evaluation criteria. While each is different, their common elements—teacher teams with vetted teacher leaders who serve as co-teachers or team leads, coupled with building-level flexibilities that allow for optimization of available resources—appear to offer the best opportunities for success. That said, these models likely will be the hardest to scale, mostly as a result of their comprehensiveness. The State should support efforts to streamline these models in ways that make successful adoption and implementation not only more likely but also more sustainable in the widest number of LEAs. In addition, the State can increase the likelihood of successful future implementations by:
- Requiring ATR proposals to address both local needs and statewide lessons learned, and to demonstrate a commitment to collecting the data necessary to evaluate their success;
- Providing recurring supplemental implementation funding;
- Providing start-up funding for planning and early one-time costs;
- Creating opportunities to share lessons learned across LEAs;
- Providing options for LEAs to receive third-party or State technical support; and
- Allowing LEAs adequate time for both planning and program maturation.
Session Law 2016-94, Section 8.7
Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Edgecombe, Pitt, and Vance