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Fewer students pursuing teaching

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Guilford County Schools graphic

GREENSBORO — Fewer students are completing teacher education programs at North Carolina colleges and universities.

Fewer students are enrolling in those programs as well. Most of the state’s public university teacher education programs have seen double-digit declines in enrollment, according to a presentation the Guilford County Board of Education received Saturday at its winter retreat.

For Guilford County Schools, that means a shrinking pool of potential teacher candidates.

The school system has not yet seen a significant decrease in student teachers, board member Nancy Routh said Saturday.

That could soon change, and at a time when a large number of educators will reach retirement age.

In five years, 587 teachers with Guilford County Schools will be eligible for full retirement. An additional 26 principals and 18 assistant principals also would be eligible for full retirement, according to the school system’s count.

Guilford school officials and leaders from local teacher education programs said barriers to recruitment and retention include low pay, a high volume of paperwork and a stigma of what it’s like to teach in North Carolina. It’s also expensive to become a teacher, they said.

N.C. A&T is now the nation’s largest historically black college or university, said Anthony Graham, interim associate dean of the A&T School of Education. “But when you look at the teacher education enrollment, it’s another story,” he said. “Our enrollment has declined since 2010 by 15.9 percent, and it’s still heading south.”

Graham said he is seeing greater recruitment of black students, but they have less interest in teaching.

Guilford and the university officials said they need to do a better job of recruiting high school students to teaching.

Officials also blamed recruitment and retention woes on recent actions of the state legislature, such as eliminating salary supplements for master’s degrees.

“No one wants to go into a profession that is not respected by the highest leaders in their state,” board member Linda Welborn said.

Last year, the General Assembly did increase teacher pay, but it came under fire for the approach, specifically for folding longevity pay into teachers’ salaries.

Earlier this month, Senate leader Phil Berger said legislators still plan to increase starting teacher pay to $35,000 a year.

Overall, the school board spent almost eight hours discussing areas of concern for the school system. That discussion included a consistent under­current of funding concerns.

“We’re digging the marrow out of the bone here,” board member Jeff Belton said.

Twenty items in the school system’s strategic plan are on hold because of budget constraints, chief of staff Nora Carr told the board.

Those items include increasing the amount of technology in elementary and high schools. The school system used a portion of a $30 million federal Race to the Top grant to lease tablet computers for middle school students as part of a broader personalized learning initiative.

“It’s not really sexy and new anymore. It’s just basic,” Carr said of providing technology for individual students.

School officials had planned to expand the personalized learning efforts after the grant ran out. That plan got sidetracked by efforts to absorb budget cuts, she said.

Board members discussed reducing again transportation for magnet school programs. They briefly talked about possibly reducing sports offerings at middle schools.

But some board members also expressed concern that reducing magnet school offerings or access to those programs could make local schools less competitive with private and charter schools.

Belton suggested the board hold public forums or find ways to get input on any significant changes to magnet programs.

Despite lengthy discussions of needing to make cuts and needing to protect the classroom, school officials did not land on a solution to the money concerns.

“We cannot raise class sizes anymore,” Welborn said.

“We cannot take discretionary funding from our schools anymore. They’re down to nothing.”

Contact Marquita Brown at (336) 373-7002, and follow @mbrownNR on Twitter.


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