Fewer People Want To Be Teachers, N.C. Education Leaders Look For Solutions

Jan 28, 2015

Credit Reema Khrais

 Fewer North Carolina students are enrolling in teaching programs, a problem education leaders say they are trying to tackle by strengthening recruitment, improving teacher preparation and supporting pay increases.

The number of undergraduate and graduate students declaring education majors dropped by 12 percent between 2013 and 2014. It’s a statistic education officials repeated and mulled over during Tuesday’s UNC Board of Governors Education Summit held by the SAS Institute.

“We have a crisis,” said UNC Board of Governors Chairman John C. Fennebresque, noting that there aren’t enough students to meet the increasing demands.

Among several recommendations, members of the BOG said that more should be done to improve teacher preparation and recruitment efforts for potential teachers.

They suggested the state should start a public-private teacher scholarship that would target students who want to teach in high-need areas, like science, math and special education.

“We need to be actively marketing and recruiting them for the field of education,” said Laura Wiley, a member of the UNC Board of Governors.

Governor Pat McCrory made an appearance at the summit. He also suggested that the state should make it easier for some professionals outside of education to become teachers through lateral entry. 

“We need job-ready degrees faster and at less cost,” he said. “Teaching is not an exception to this rule.”

McCrory said teachers with advanced degrees in high-need schools and fields should be paid more. He also restated his commitment to raise teacher's minimum pay to $35,000 this year.  

BOG members said they would also like to launch an online dashboard that would track and measure how teachers are doing across the state. They also talked about strengthening collaboration between colleges of education and K-12 schools.

Ellen McIntyre, Dean of the College of Education at UNC-Charlotte, said the recommendations could help address the challenge of keeping teachers in the classrooms.

“We prepare teachers, but we don’t keep them,” she said. “We can keep teachers in wealthy districts, but we don’t keep them in high-poverty schools.”