Wake Education Partnership presents "Wake FYI"



Research has shown that the single most important factor in influencing student learning is the quality of the teacher. While this conclusion is widely accepted within education circles and beyond, so often a community’s resources and energy must be focused on many areas other than recruiting, developing and retaining a quality teaching staff.

In Wake County, the challenges we face in addressing the growth in our student population and providing quality facilities for all students have at times diverted our attention away from the educators who teach our children. In this edition of Wake FYI we take a closer look at teaching quality.


The Basics on Teaching in Wake County

  • In the 2005-06 school year, the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) employed 8,573 classroom teachers.
  • 985 were National Board Certified – WCPSS has the second highest number of NBCTs of any district in the United States, and North Carolina has the largest number of any state with 9,817.
  • 40% of Wake County’s teachers hold a master’s degree.
  • The salary range in WCPSS for 2005-06 was $29,673, for a first year teacher with a bachelor’s degree, to $66,871, for a National Board Certified Teacher with a master’s degree and twenty-nine years of experience. The average teaching salary was $35,513.


Do Good Teachers Matter?

Research continues to show that the quality of a teacher has a tremendous impact on student achievement. While countless studies support the importance of teaching, we highlight a few key ones here:

  • A 2006 study by Education Trust concluded that elementary and high school students—even those in middle- and upper-income families—have higher scores on state exams and are more prepared for college if they attend schools where teacher quality is ranked high. According to the study, low-income and minority children benefit the most from good teachers.
  • Teacher effectiveness is the “…single biggest factor influencing gains in achievement, an influence bigger than race, poverty, parent’s education, or any of the other factors that are often thought to doom children to failure.” (See “The Real Value of Teachers,” Winter 2004, Vol. 8, Issue 1, from the Education Trust.)
  • A 1996 study using the Tennessee Value-Added model showed a difference in student achievement of nearly 50 points between students who had teachers identified as most effective versus least effective. Tremendous academic gain held true for low-achieving, average and high-achieving students who had effective teachers. (See William Sanders and Joan Rivers 1996 work, “Cumulative and Residual Effects of Teachers on Future Academic Achievement.”)
  • Studies done in Dallas and Boston showed the same type of gains for students with teachers identified as most effective. In Boston, the top third of teachers produced six times the learning of the bottom third of teachers in the study. (See Boston Public Schools “High School Restructuring,” March 9, 1998.)
  • One early, but often cited, study showed that teacher quality accounted for 40 percent of the variance between achievement scores of white and black students – more than any other factor. (See Ronald Ferguson, “Paying for Public Education: New Evidence on How and Why Money Matters” in Harvard Journal on Legislation 28:2 [Summer 1991].)
Teacher Recruitment and Retention

Wake County Data
  • In the 2004-05 school year, WCPSS had a teacher turnover rate of 10.24%, down from the previous year’s rate of 11.3%.
  • Even with this relatively low rate of attrition, however, WCPSS must still hire more than 800 teachers to replace those leaving the classroom. In addition, each year WCPSS has to fill 300 new positions created to deal with the growth in student enrollment.
  • WCPSS alone hires 1,100 teachers a year in a state that graduates 3,300 teachers in all of its teacher education programs. Of those, only 2,800 seek teaching certification. As a result, Wake County recruiters have gone around the country to find quality teachers -- in 2005-06 more than half of teachers who were new to Wake County came from outside of North Carolina.
  • The rate at which teachers leave WCPSS can vary greatly. Digging down into the 10.24% overall rate:
    New teacher turnover rate (less than five years’ experience)
    Special education teacher turnover rate
    Career teacher turnover rate (more than five year’s experience)
  • Five-year teacher turnover data:
    • 49% - New teachers who started in 2000 who were still teaching in 2005.
    • 31.2% - New teachers who started in 2000 who were teaching in the same school in 2005.
    • 67% - Career teachers who were teaching in 2000 and were still teaching in 2005.
    • 51.7% - Career teachers who were teaching in 2000 who were teaching in the same school in 2005.
  • In 2004-05, 47% of WCPSS’ teachers were in either the range of teachers most likely to leave or those nearing or eligible for retirement. (33% had five or fewer years of experience; 14% had 25 or more years of experience)
  • Read more about recruiting and retaining teachers in Wake County in Recruit, Retain and Respect, the report of the Wake Task Force on Teaching Excellence.
North Carolina Data
  • The turnover rate in North Carolina for 2004-05 was 12.95%. Turnover ranged from a low of 3.96% in Clay County to a high of 28.51% in Harnett County.
  • To read more about teacher attrition in North Carolina, please refer to the annual teacher turnover report prepared by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
What Research Tells Us
  • Research shows that each teacher who leaves costs the district a minimum of $11,000.
  • A 2001 analysis by Richard Ingersoll of Harvard University found that lack of support from school leadership, lack of teacher empowerment, and interruptions to instructional time were the top three reasons cited for leaving by teachers in high-poverty urban schools. Salary was the top reason for leaving for teachers in low-poverty urban schools, with lack of support from school leadership being the next highest.
Highly Qualified Teachers
  • By June 30, 2006, all teachers in core subject areas as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act are required to be “highly qualified.”
  • Highly qualified requirements do not apply to teachers in non-core academic subjects or physical education.
  • Core subject areas include: English, reading, language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, social studies, economics, arts, history, geography, and kindergarten through Grade 6 (K-6).
  • Determination of whether a teacher is highly qualified can vary depending on what level a teacher teaches (elementary, middle or high school). Factors can include:
    • College major (undergraduate or graduate degree);
    • Passing the appropriate PRAXIS test (a standardized test used for teacher certification in North Carolina and other states);
    • Having National Board Certification; or
    • Completing requirements under the HOUSSE (High, Objective, Uniform, State-Standard of Evaluation) provisions North Carolina has established.
  • North Carolina is one of nine states at risk of losing federal funds for not making sufficient progress towards the highly qualified goal. In N.C. during the 2005-06 school year, 87% of elementary classes and 84% of secondary classes were taught by highly qualified teachers.
National Board Certified Teachers
  • What is a National Board Certified Teacher? An NBCT is a teacher who has successfully gone through an assessment process through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).
  • What does a teacher do to become National Board Certified? National Board Certification uses a series of performance-based assessments to measure a teacher's practice against rigorous standards. The entire process can take up to a year to complete. These assessments include:
    • submission of a portfolio containing student work samples and videotapes of classroom teaching, as well as analysis of these submissions; and
    • a series of written exercises to test both subject matter and pedagogical knowledge (what teachers teach and how they teach it).
  • What are the Five Core Propositions? The foundation of the National Board is based on five key areas which define what teachers ought to know and be able to do. These areas include knowledge of their subject matter, ability to teach diverse learners, and being members of learning communities which continuously seek to improve their practice.
  • How long has the NBPTS been around? The NBPTS was created in 1987 as a result of the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy's Task Force on Teaching as a Profession released "A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century," which followed the seminal report “A Nation at Risk.”
Teacher Working Conditions
  • In 2002, North Carolina became the first state in the country to survey all teachers on the working conditions they encounter in their schools. This survey, conducted by the N.C. Professional Teaching Standards Commission and the N.C. Association of Educators, focused on five domains that have an impact on the working conditions of teachers:
    • Time (to work with students and collaborate with colleagues)
    • Professional development
    • Leadership
    • Teacher empowerment
    • Facilities and resources
  • The survey is now conducted through the Office of the Governor, in partnership with several statewide organizations, and will be conducted every two years. The 2006 survey was completed this spring and results were recently made public.
  • Districts and schools with a sufficient response rate (40%) receive a report showing their responses on all questions in all domain areas.
  • Many schools around North Carolina utilized the 2004 data to improve policies and practices and improve the conditions under which teachers teach and students learn.
  • Survey data is public information and anyone can view reports for any schools/districts with sufficient response rates.

For More Information on Teaching Quality



In addition to the websites above, the following pieces informed this edition:
• Ingersoll, Richard. “Teacher Turnover and Teacher Shortages: An Organizational Analysis.” American Educational Research Journal, 38. (Fall 2001) 499-534.
• Keller, Bess. “No State Meeting Provision of ‘No Child’ Law” Education Week, May 24 2006. Accessed at: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2006/05/24/38hqteach.h25.html?levelId=1000
• Letter from US DOE to Superintendent June Atkinson re: Highly Qualified Data. Accessed at: http://www.ed.gov/programs/teacherqual/hqtltr/review/nc2.doc
• National Board for Professional Teaching Standards --
- Basic information about NBPTS: http://www.nbpts.org/about/index.cfm
- NC total of NBCTs: http://www.nbpts.org/nbct/nbctdir_topten_total.cfm
• Wake County Public School System Human Resources Division: 2004-05 Teacher turnover data for WCPSS.