Save Our Teachers!
Graduate Student in Educational Leadership
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
North Carolina's student population continues
to grow, yet the state's teachers are leaving the public schools
at an alarming rate. In an effort to better prepare and retain
teachers, the University of North Carolina has announced that
it will revamp its teacher education program to make preparation
experiences more relevant to classroom practice.
Surveys indicate that nearly 40% of the state's teachers quit by the end of their fifth year, with 17% leaving after just one year and more than a third within three years. The main reasons cited for leaving include "a general lack of moral support and poor preparation for the classroom."
UNC's Board of Governors approved a plan containing two initiatives designed to address these problems:
1) University-School Teacher Education Partnership. The partnership aims to put preservice teachers into the schools for longer periods of time. Current requirements call for just 10 weeks of in-the-field experience, and of that time, only 10 days are full-time. Under new guidelines, student teachers would spend a full year in actual classroom teaching settings.
2) UNC Center for Leadership Development.
This center would centralize teacher education programs throughout
the state and would provide support via professional development
opportunities for both new teachers and those already in the field.
The plan, which was approved by the Board of
Governors on January 10, is designed to be implemented over a
10-year period and will incur an annual cost of 1.8 million dollars.
Universities in the UNC system will be expected to work with their
local school districts to identify successful teacher preparation
models and to develop their own reform programs.
I have worked with several preservice teachers. Each of them has expressed frustration and has remarked that they do not feel adequately prepared to face the realities of their own classroom. I have seen many brand-new teachers eagerly setting up their classrooms, makings plans, and looking forward to the start of a long and rewarding career, only to be handing in their resignations a year or two later. The names and faces are different, but the stories are virtually the same. Preparation programs have ill-prepared student teachers for dealing with the realities of the classroom, and support mechanisms for new teachers are virtually nonexistent.
The issues of teacher preparation and retention are not new, nor are they unique to North Carolina. Since the publication of A Nation at Risk in the early 1980's, teacher quality has been a topic of scrutiny and many universities and state legislatures across the nation have attempted to address the problem. At the same time, the pool of potential teachers continues to shrink as women have taken advantage of increased career opportunities in other fields.
I applaud the UNC Board of Governors for recognizing
this problem and attempting to address the needs of preservice
and novice teachers. Without strong, prepared teachers we cannot
expect schools to meet the educational needs of our students
and ready them to be productive citizens and academically capable
members of the workforce.
Barnett, Cynthia (1997, January 11). Teacher training revamped. The News and Observer [Online], Available: http://www.nando.net/newsroom/nao/