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N.C. Commission To Urge Teacher 'Career-Growth' System

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Raleigh, N.C.--A blue-ribbon commission appointed by Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. is recommending the establishment of a "career-growth" program for teachers, the reduction of class sizes in grades 4-6, and a recommitment to learning as schools' top priority.

The recommendations are part of a larger package of proposed reforms included in the final draft of the commission's report, which is scheduled for public release in April.

The Commission on Education for Economic Growth, modeled after a similar national panel that Governor Hunt headed for the Education Commission of the States, was appointed in October 1983 by the Governor. Its charge was to "mobilize public support for lasting change in our state's public schools."

The recommendations in the draft are not expected to change significantly when the panel meets to further refine them and add cost estimates at a meeting scheduled for March 15.

Governor Hunt has said he plans to use the recommendations as the basis of his proposals to the state General Assembly. Some may be raised during a legislative session scheduled for this summer; others may not be considered until next year, according to officials. Absent from the draft report, however, are specific recommendations on an issue of widespread concern in the state--teachers' base pay.

Salary Level References Removed

The previous draft of the report, issued on Jan. 31, included a recommendation by the Governor's staff that salaries gradually be increased from the current level of $13,660 to $19,680 to a higher range of $18,000 to $34,000. But because Governor Hunt wanted the commission to arrive at its own figures for salary levels, he asked that all references to specific salary levels be removed from the final draft, according to Roy Forbes, a consultant to the commission who is a former official of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Instead, the report comments on the issue only in general terms, noting that the state's General Assembly "should appropriate funds to increase the base pay of teachers." The commission also urges that the state and its local districts:

Improve leadership and management in the schools, with special emphasis on developing strong principals.

Create partnerships between the public schools and all interested parties in local and state communities.

Strengthen the curriculum through rigorous and explicit standards, competency-based promotion, and remedial assistance for low-achieving students.

Provide a productive learning environment by reducing distractions, providing better discipline and guidance, and improving services to special populations of students.

Reduce the average class size in elementary schools, with the long-range goal of 26 students in each class. Currently, state requirements on class size vary from grade to grade. In kindergarten through 3rd grade, the range is 26-29 students. For grades 4 through 8, it is 30-33. In high school, it is 31-35. Official records indicate that these class sizes are often exceeded.

The report asks the legislature to appropriate funds this year to reduce the class size in grades 4 through 6 to 26 students, and to reduce to 130 from 150 the number of students seen by a secondary-school English teacher each day.

Double, to 700, the number of science and mathematics teachers currently on 12-month salaries in the state. Mr. Hunt has estimated the cost of this change to be $2 million.

Increase the $9-per-student textbook allocation to $11 for elementary students and to $15 for secondary students. The General Assembly also should change the statutory definition of "textbook" to provide more flexibility in the purchase of instructional materials.

Increase from $25 to $100 the allocation per teacher to pursue continuing education. Governor Hunt has said this would cost $5 million.

The report also calls for "a change of attitude and expectation about the goals of public schooling."

"It is time, in our judgment, to put learning first," the commission says. "We must make it clear that the academic mission of our public schools is their paramount mission."

Improving Teaching

The absence in the report of specific recommendations on teachers' salaries surprised some commission members and other officials, including A. Craig Phillips, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Mr. Phillips has recommended a 15-percent pay hike for all teachers.

The report supports higher salaries, but indicates that they must be accompanied by a restructured system of recruiting, training, certifying, and compensating teachers.

To supplement the base pay for outstanding teachers, the report recommends a statewide "career-growth program" to "provide opportunities for individuals to continue to teach while assuming additional responsibilities, such as serving as mentors to other teachers, participating in planning and conducting staff-development programs, participating in the development of curriculum plans and materials, conducting practical instruction research, and participating in developing model programs."

The report asks local school districts to decide how many teachers to include in the program, but stipulates that "only highly productive and effective teachers who have well documented, excellent performance records should be assigned to career-growth positions." The document asks the commission, which will continue working after the report is issued, to develop the career-growth program and to submit it to the state board of education in December. The plan would then be submitted to the General Assembly in January of 1985.

The report states that the legislature should pay for the career-growth program in up to 24 pilot districts during the 1985-86 and 1986-87 school years. Full funding for all districts should be available for the 1987-88 school year.

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