WAKE COUNTY, North Carolina — North Carolina should allow principal applicants to use portfolios — instead of a test — to prove they’re ready for the job, the State Board of Education recommended Thursday.
After hours of debate this week and after months of meetings, the board voted to approve several recommendations to the North Carolina General Assembly that seek to reconcile the differences between what state law says, what what state education entities have actually done and what state education leaders think the law should say.
Lawmakers will meet for their next long session early next year.
For years, North Carolina’s primary licensure practice has been out of step with what is required by state law.
State law requires principal applicants to pass a licensing exam and have four years of teaching experience. But for years the state has allowed principal applicants with no teaching experience and hasn’t administered a licensing exam since 2008.
“About a year ago, we realized our licensure practices weren’t aligned with the law as well as they should have been,” said board attorney Allison Schafer. .
The General Assembly last year passed a bill, signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper, that allowed directors who have received licenses since 2010 – around the time the practice no longer aligned with the law. of the state – to waive the legal requirements, if they did not meet them, allowing them to continue to practice. Lawmakers extended eligibility twice, allowing the waiver to cover lead nominees through 2024. But changes will need to be made at the state board level or at the General Assembly level. — or both — to ensure that future principal nominees meet the requirements of state law. .
“We are now in a position where things like the test that is supposed to be [there] … is not in place,” Schafer said.
Trying to fix the licensing rules has involved numerous stakeholder meetings and disputes within the State Board of Education for months over updates on progress so far.
On Wednesday, board members discussed making changes that were then morphed into new suggestions overnight on Thursday.
In a rare split vote that featured multiple pauses from reluctant board members to vote, the board decided to urge the North Carolina General Assembly to change its law to allow managers to choose a portfolio exam, instead of the pencil-and-paper licensure test. What would be part of the portfolio review would be determined at the state level.
The recommendation also included keeping the licensing exam — required by state law but not used in North Carolina for more than a decade — as an option, meaning the wallet would not be required.
Currently, individual colleges require portfolio exams for principal applicants that match their different program requirements, but they are not uniform statewide or determined at the state level.
Several board members argued that the state should not allow lead applicants to prove they are ready for the job using a test because portfolios are more rigorous. Portfolios, they argued, cover the same expectations as exams, but also require proof that candidates have actually used what they learned during their internships.
Board members Amy White and Olivia Oxendine were the only two to vocally support keeping a licensing exam as an option for principal applicants, while other members — including chairman Eric Davis — said satisfied with the compromise. Oxendine works in principal preparation at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
White called an exam a “floor” to determine if a lead candidate could do the job and said a portfolio would be a way to show skills in action.
“I in no way feel like a review would define whether or not this candidate is truly qualified to be a manager,” White said. “I think the evidence in this portfolio is really the most demonstrative.”
But the exam results would provide proof of proficiency to foreigners, she said.
Superintendent Catherine Truitt, who pushed the board to recommend eliminating the optional exam, suggested candidates who opted for the test instead of a portfolio would do less to prove they had mastered the skills that principals should have. Stakeholder feedback for months suggested scrapping the review and never suggested keeping it, she said.
“This recommendation goes against all of the stakeholder feedback that was given to the committee,” Truitt said. Truitt is a non-voting member of the Board of Directors. The Department of Public Instruction, overseen by Truitt, had also recommended cutting the licensing exam.
Board member James Ford wondered if the review was worth the time and money if it didn’t provide information beyond what a portfolio would provide.
“There seems to be pretty universal agreement on this written test that doesn’t provide that,” he said.
The previous exam had a nearly 100% pass rate, Truitt said, raising questions about what educators might learn from the results.
Board member Jill Camnitz, who helped push the recommendation to a 5-4 vote, said she was forced to vote in favor of the motion because she wanted the review of the portfolio is an option. She worried that voting on a recommendation that overturned the review had jeopardized a board vote recommending the portfolio.
Regardless of the General Assembly’s response to the recommendations, the state will need to adopt a new primary licensing exam. Council members asked the Department of Public Instruction to make recommendations for the council to consider.
The council would also receive recommendations on a statewide candidate portfolio model, should lawmakers adopt the portfolio option. Portfolio is currently not an option for Principal Applicants. All major prep programs have portfolio requirements that match their program requirements, but they are not streamlined statewide because course requirements differ.
The board also approved three other recommendations to lawmakers on separate unopposed votes:
- Change the one-year internship requirement to a 10-month requirement — the typical length of most educator positions — or 500 to 1,000 hours.
- Allow people with broad educator licenses – including psychologists or media coordinators – to become directors after at least four years of working in those educator jobs. This would replace the requirement that principal applicants must have four years of classroom teaching experience, specifically.
- Require a master’s degree in educational administration or an additional bachelor’s degree program if the candidate already has a master’s degree in a related field. This would replace the requirement that principal applicants hold a master’s degree in educational administration.
Some board members questioned allowing non-teachers to become principals, particularly if principals evaluate teachers.
Superintendent Catherine Truitt said having non-teachers evaluating teachers is stressful for many teachers, but said the state is working to put more teachers in charge of evaluations. Under the current draft of the teacher licensure model, teacher leaders would be among those who evaluate teachers.
Tom Tomberlin, senior director of educator readiness, licensing and performance at the Department of Public Instruction, said very few people pursuing primary careers come from non-teaching backgrounds.
“The percentage is quite low,” he said. “These are still mostly people who have pursued a career as a teacher.”