2023 North Carolina Education Innovation Lab Review

Every student deserves access to a great teacher.

Unfortunately, too many North Carolina students are deprived of that access because of a leaky teacher pipeline that fails to recruit, support, and retain enough high-quality educators for our public schools. One key contributor to this leaky pipeline is the outdated way we pay teachers.

The good news is that North Carolina is at the forefront of a national movement to change how teachers are paid, with programs like Advanced Teaching Roles and strategies like Front-Loaded Pay. But there's only so much that strategic investments can help when the salary structure that they're layered on is so outdated.

During the 2023 North Carolina Education Innovation Lab, stakeholders from across the state examined the past, present, and reimagined future of teacher compensation in our state, diving deep into recommendations from BEST NC’s recent report Teacher Pay in North Carolina: A Smart Investment in Student Achievement.

Find everything from the Lab, including recordings and pictures of the day's panels and presentations, downloadable slide decks, and additional resources to help you continue your work long after the Innovation Lab has ended.

Welcome & Opening Remarks

BEST NC Chairman Walter McDowell kicks off the 2023 North Carolina Education Innovation Lab, followed by Vice President of Policy & Engagement, Leah Sutton. Sutton explains that, over the last ten years of BEST NC’s work, scores of educators have expressed that the way teachers are compensated has posed a real and lasting challenge to improving student outcomes in North Carolina.

Walter McDowell, Chairman, BEST NC

Leah Sutton, Vice President of Policy & Engagement, BEST NC

Best Practices in Compensating High-Skilled Professionals

BEST NC President & CEO Brenda Berg moderates a two-part discussion between human resource executives from the private sector and North Carolina educators.


In the first half of the session, Berg spoke with Jenn Mann of SAS Institute and Abigail Smith of Bain & Company about the norms and expectations for compensating high-skilled professionals in the private sector, and how those best practices conflict with the current compensation practices in North Carolina’s public schools.


Later, Berg, Mann, and Smith are joined on stage by 2022 NC Beginning Teacher of the Year Xavier Adams, Mount Airy City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kim Morrison, and Executive Director of Human Resources for Wilson County Schools, Claudia Spencer. The panel discusses the current realities educators face because of North Carolina’s teacher compensation system and possible solutions based on best practices from the private sector.

Insights from the Private Sector:
        • Jenn Mann, Executive Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer, SAS Institute
        • Abigail Smith, Partner, Bain & Company
Reflections from Educators:
        • Xavier Adams, 2022 Prudential NC Beginning Teacher of the Year, Orange County Schools
        • Dr. Kim Morrison, Superintendent, Mount Airy City Schools
        • Claudia Spencer, Executive Director of Human Resources, Wilson County Schools

Moderator: Brenda Berg, President & CEO, BEST NC

Remarks by Catherine Truitt: The Future of the Teaching Profession

North Carolina State Superintendent Catherine Truitt delivers remarks on The Future of the Teaching Profession in North Carolina, examining the nuanced realities of a leaking teacher pipeline, addressing shortcomings of the current teacher salary structure, and offering insights into a revamped licensure system that reimagines the role of compensation in recruiting and retaining North Carolina’s next generation of educators.

Catherine Truitt, State Superintendent, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

The Great School Rethink: Keynote Conversation with Dr. Frederick M. Hess

During the 2023 Education Innovation Lab’s Keynote Address, Dr. Frederick M. Hess shared lessons from his new book The Great School Rethink and discussed how, despite countless reform efforts across the nation and in North Carolina, practical and effective teacher compensation efforts remain elusive. Acknowledging the historical and societal drivers behind the current pipeline shortage, Dr. Hess examines key concepts from BEST NC’s Teacher Pay in North Carolina report through the lens of his own work.


Later, Dr. Hess is joined onstage by the former president of Belk, Inc. and BEST NC board member, John R. Belk, to engage in a Q&A about what it means to “rethink” how schools recruit, retain, and reward educators.

Dr. Frederick M. Hess, Senior Fellow & Director of Education Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute; Author, The Great School Rethink (2023)

Moderator: John R. Belk, President (Retired), Belk, Inc.; Board Member, BEST NC