Fayetteville teacher assistant Grace King works with first graders on sight words.
Reema Khrais

Public school districts throughout the state have fewer teacher assistants in the classrooms this academic year than the previous year, despite assurances from lawmakers that the state budget would not lead to TA reductions.  

Since the 2008-09 recession, state funding for TAs has been reduced by more than 20 percent, leading to thousands of cuts.

In Cumberland County Schools, teacher assistant Grace King begins her day driving a school bus.

Kindergarten teacher Daly Romero Espinal teaches her students basic Spanish commands on the first day of school at Martin Millennium Academy.
Reema Khrais

Slightly fewer teachers left North Carolina last year than the year before, but more left because they were dissatisfied with teaching or wanted to teach in another state, according to a state Department of Public Instruction draft report.

Of the 96,010 public school teachers employed last year, 1,011 said they left because they were dissatisfied with teaching or had a career change. The year before, nearly nine hundred teachers left for those reasons.

Terry Stoops is the Director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation

Contributions to the superb #TeachingInNC project are, to quote baseball great Yogi Berra, déjà vu all over again.

The names of classroom activities are different, but children today are engaged in tasks that have cycled in and out of public school classrooms for decades. 

Whether it is group work, hands-on activities, student-led discussions, or focus on "real world" skills, it is a good bet that previous generations of experts have promoted it, teachers have employed it, and children have suffered through it.

Mark Jewell

When I look at these tweets from our amazing educators and students, a big smile comes across my face. It makes me reflect back to my own career as a NC public school teacher.

I have worked in education for 27 years.  I started in 1987, teaching in my home state of West Virginia. But by 1997 I was in the classroom in Guilford County, lured to North Carolina because of her reputation as a leader in innovation and classroom practices.

Being a teacher is tough anywhere. On a national scale, being a teacher in North Carolina is arguably among the most challenging environments in public education. 

Recent "rankings" have painted a picture of North Carolina's public schools that have raised alarm in communities across the state, bringing public education to the forefront of policy and politics. 

Most would agree that where we are is not where we need to be to compete economically in modern regional, national, and global markets. 

Bill McDiarmid
UNC School of Education

One of the things that struck me was how rewarding teachers continue to find their careers despite the environment they are in. Many teachers don't feel valued or respected. While there are good aspects to the [recent] pay raise for early career teachers, more veteran teachers feel like the service that they put in isn't valued.

And yet if you look at the comments (in #TeachingInNC) you see how committed, enthusiastic and creative these folks remain.

Howard Lee

I found that a lot of the responses were inspirational, and I am big on inspiring students. I thought the attempt was being made to get students really excited about learning, and I really like that.

There was one post that was about success. The teacher talked about helping students find their dreams. I am in the midst of writing a paper about dreams, hope and faith, and this is what I am writing:

Dreams inspire, hope motivates and faith sustains.

(Note: Lee points out several posts that are by teachers talking about inspiring students.)

At the beginning of this school year, WUNC ran an experiment. We asked teachers a simple question: "Give us a snapshot of your life, in words or pictures."

By the end of the month we had 1,400 responses, mostly on Twitter.

Teachers talked about their pay, their frustrations, their surprising moments, their working weekends, their plugged up classroom toilets. They took photos of t-shirts kids wore and notes students left. We saw a remarkable number of ways teachers are using technology. In short, we received just what we asked for, a window into the teaching profession in North Carolina today.

>> Look at the archive of responses here. Look at how educational leaders across the state responded to the project here.

Nancy Gardner is one of the teachers who contributed to the project. Gardner is National Board Certified Teacher with over 26 years of experience in grades 7-12. She currently teaches senior English at Mooresville High School in Mooresville, N.C. where she chairs the English Department. We asked Nancy to review the tweets and Instagram contributions and tell us what she saw:

"I am inspired, and yes, a little weepy, when I read and view all of these at one time," writes Gardner. "Although some of these mention the salaries and frustrations with all of the issues facing NC teachers, the 'narrative' continues to reinforce the dedication our teachers have to helping all students become successful, in spite of the challenges."

Gardner then provided this list, something she calls "broad takeaways":

"No longer do we have rows of traditional teaching with the teacher in the front of the room," writes Gardner.  "All levels, K-12 are in small groups-and the lessons are teacher facilitated or coached."

East Chapel Hill High School students
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

A state commission in charge of reworking the Common Core academic standards has begun reviewing them.  

Members spent hours on Monday learning what's expected under Common Core in terms of English and language arts. Some of those goals include when students should know how to explain their ideas or comprehend certain texts.  

The 11 members were politically appointed to review and possibly make changes to the academic standards after lawmakers heard complaints from parents and teachers that they do not progress in a natural or developmentally appropriate way.

More than 300 teachers across the state have participated so far in our #TeachingInNC project.  It's where we ask teachers to give us a snapshot of their lives, using words or pictures. We hope that, collectively, these snippets will give "the rest of us" a sense of what it's like to be a teacher in NC. 

Most teachers are sending in their snapshots via Twitter, but some are using Instagram. This one made us laugh.

That same teacher also submitted this:

>>Browse all 701+ submissions here.

NC General Assembly; State Legislature.
Dave Crosby / Flickr Share-Alike

State lawmakers are at odds over intertwined bills that many argue are postponing the adjournment of the legislative session.

One of those measures -- House Bill 1224 -- is loaded with job-creation incentives aimed at luring businesses to the state. It would also cap local sales taxes. 

Lawmakers voted this summer to eventually eliminate teacher tenure, replacing it with temporary contracts. The State Board of Education will discuss a model contract this week.
cybrarian77 / https://www.flickr.com/photos/cybrarian77/6284181389

Governor Pat McCrory has signed a $21 billion dollar state budget that includes pay increases for teachers. He and other Republican leaders have been trying to send a loud and clear message that teachers will be getting a historic pay raise, the first major one in years.

They’ve been touting it as an average seven percent increase. But there’s been a lot of confusion over how that’ll actually pan out and whether all teachers will see a pay bump.

Glenwood Elementary students
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Wake commissioners voted Monday against a referendum that could have raised the county's sales tax by a quarter-cent to generate about $28 million to go toward public schools.

Some Wake Commissioners wanted to hold the vote because the General Assembly might limit their ability to raise sales taxes. Lawmakers want to cap the local sales tax rate to 2.5 percent. The measure would allow some of the large urban counties, including Wake, to bypass that requirement if they levy a quarter percent tax this November.

Lawmakers voted this summer to eventually eliminate teacher tenure, replacing it with temporary contracts. The State Board of Education will discuss a model contract this week.
cybrarian77 / https://www.flickr.com/photos/cybrarian77/6284181389

 As the state budget is finalized, some critics say they’re skeptical of how the teacher pay raises will pan out.

Under the budget deal, public school teachers will get an average seven percent raise. On the surface, many teachers say that sounds great, but some are worried about what it'll mean for more experienced teachers.

Currently, teachers with more than 10 years of experience receive lump-sum bonuses, which will be eliminated under the new salary plan.

photo of the North Carolina Senate
Government & Heritage Library, State Library of NC / Flickr

After spending a month dragging their feet on the state budget, lawmakers are now in a 48-hour race to wrap it up and go home. The $21.1 billion budget before them is a hefty 260-page document filled with hundreds of edits, figures and calculations.  But for many Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow), one item stands out.

“The priority of this session was education and, in particular, teacher pay,” Brown said.

NC Legislative Building
Dave DeWitt

 Nearly a month past their deadline, state leaders say they hope to release a final spending plan adjustment in the next couple of days.

Top negotiators haven't officially released any details yet, but they expect to give teachers average raises of about 7 percent. 

Students at McDougle Elementary.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Since the beginning of this year, many legislators and critics have dubbed Common Core "developmentally inappropriate."

They argue that the new Math and English standards should be repealed because they are not suitable for some students.

"I know there is some age and grade inappropriateness,” said Republican Sen. Jerry Tillman at a legislative meeting earlier this year. “I’ve talked with teachers.”

Lawmakers voted this summer to eventually eliminate teacher tenure, replacing it with temporary contracts. The State Board of Education will discuss a model contract this week.
cybrarian77 / https://www.flickr.com/photos/cybrarian77/6284181389

  The Houston Independent School District is looking to recruit more teachers from North Carolina.

Recruiters first visited in May, where they made 12 on-the-spot offers and later hired about 8 more teachers, according to Shaleah Reed, a spokesperson from HISD.

The district is offering $49,100 as a starting salary. North Carolina’s starting salary is among the lowest in the nation at $30,800.

Students at McDougle Elementary.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

  Governor Pat McCrory has signed a bill designed to review and potentially replace the Common Core academic standards.

McCrory referred to the bill as a “Common Core review bill,” despite lawmakers who say that the legislation will work to replace the standards.

Students at McDougle Elementary.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

The Senate voted 33-12 on Thursday for a bill that would likely get rid of most – if not all – of the Common Core academic standards.

“It will put these standards in North Carolina’s hands,” said Republican Senator Jerry Tillman.

The House and Senate chambers approved separate bills earlier this session that would create commissions to rework the math and language arts standards. The most recent vote was on a compromise bill that closely resembles the Senate version.

N.C. General Assembly, State Legislature
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Republican lawmakers have been moving slowly on state budget negotiations. They finally reached a compromise Wednesday on how much revenue they will rely on from the state lottery. But that came after hours of finger-pointing and debate over other education issues, including teacher pay.

Before negotiations even began on Wednesday morning, the mood felt sour. Senate leaders weren’t happy that the House had invited school leaders to argue against cutting teacher assistant jobs. Senator Harry Brown objected before the guests could even make their way to the podium.

Glenwood Elementary students
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a bill that could replace parts – if not all – of the Common Core academic standards in North Carolina.

The two chambers drafted separate bills earlier this session that would create commissions to review the English and Math standards. The House bill recommended flat out replacing the standards, while the Senate legislation left open the possibility that parts of Common Core could continue.

Governor Pat McCrory gathered with school leaders and legislators on Wednesday to show their support for a scaled-down spending plan that focuses on teacher pay.
Reema Khrais

State House Republicans are teaming up with Governor Pat McCrory to help speed up slow budget talks. Legislators are supposed to make adjustments to the two-year state budget by July 1, but progress has been sluggish.

Representatives say they want to at least pass a scaled-down spending plan that focuses on teacher pay. It would give teachers an average five-percent raise without relying on funds from the lottery. 

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Senate and House leaders are expected to begin meeting in conference committees this week to make adjustments to the two-year budget plan. 

They have until June 30th to resolve differences and send their spending plan to Governor Pat McCrory.

Medicaid funding and teacher pay raises are expected to be the key sticking points in negotiations. But many Republicans, like Representative Craig Horn (R-Union), say they’re optimistic about the process.

Teachers and supporters carried heavy cardboard boxes of petition signatures calling lawmakers to raise the teacher pay to the national average.
Reema Khrais

 A group of teachers and supporters dropped off a 61,000-signature petition to lawmakers on Thursday, demanding pay raises that do not result in destructive cuts to public education.

They carried the 14 heavy and large cardboard boxes to the offices of Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis, who are currently leading the efforts to raise teacher pay.