Let the teacher 'hunger games' begin
In the acclaimed “Hunger Games” books and movies, randomly chosen innocents are pitted against one another in a high-stakes game — one where the participants in 13 districts fight until death.
While the situation in public schools across North Carolina isn’t as stark, there is nonetheless a competition of sorts that pits teachers against each other within each school district. Ironically the stakes aren’t even that high, as they involve a pay raise $500 a year for educators in a district judged to be in the top 25 percent of their field.
Teachers haven’t had a salary increase in five years now — except for a 1.2 percent raise granted to all state employees just before the 2012-13 election. Authorizing a salary hike of less than 30 cents an hour for just a few seems unconscionable.
Perhaps in districts where students are under performing and teachers have lost their passion for the profession, it may be easier to pick out the top quarter. But in Haywood County, consider the record.
Haywood County Schools out-performed 85 percent of the other schools in the state. In recent years, Jonathan Valley Elementary school was one of two National Title I Distinguished School finalists in the state and finished in the top 1 percent nationwide. Riverbend Elementary School was a national Blue Ribbon school, one of only 225 schools in the nation and Bethel Elementary School received a national award as a Title I Distinguished School — one of only 67 schools across the United States to receive the honor.
Numerous elementary schools in the county are consistently ranked as Title I reward schools, putting them in the top 10 percent of schools in the state.
It can easily be argued that achieving such success requires an integrated team effort. Any weak link with any teacher could knock a school out of the running in these types of national and state rankings. It makes sense that all the teachers in these schools could easily be among the 25 percent, but there aren't enough slots. This doesn't even count the teachers at the other schools across the district that certainly have top-performing teachers worth rewarding.
So given that only 25 percent of the teachers across the district can be selected to receive a raise, along with a four-year contract, there’s going to be a lot of top-performing teachers Haywood County left out. Given the school district's record, teachers not rewarded would most likely be among the top performing in the entire state if legislators had selected a different "reward" system.
If legislators are truly looking for a way improve public education, perhaps they need to look at successful districts such as Haywood instead of creating a “hunger games” microcosm within our schools.
Ask your legislators to consider alternatives. Surely we can do better than this.