AJ Fletcher Foundation education writer Lindsay Wagner posted a fine story yesterday in which she examines the latest in a long series of claims by staffers at the conservative John Locke Foundation that North Carolina is a big teacher magnet, despite an almost decade-long conservative war on public schools.
Wagner’s verdict on the conservative claim: Not exactly. Here are some excerpts:
But according to Dr. Thad Domina, an education policy researcher and associate professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Stoops’ analysis doesn’t tell the whole story.
“We are enjoying a teacher in-migration in spite of—not because of—the policy framework we’re dealing with,” said Domina.
Domina said North Carolina is a destination for people, period — there are roughly 1.5 in-migrants to every out-migrant, and the state ranks in the top five for migration in the United States, according to a report by a moving company that has tracked migration patterns since 1977.
“Teaching forces are simply keeping up with population growth,” said Domina, who said he doesn’t think folks’ decisions to move to North Carolina has much to do with how attractive it is to teach here—instead there are greater economic forces at play, like the relatively low cost of real estate and the fact that the economy has been getting stronger with each year since the Great Recession, making it easier for families to secure jobs and move.
Teacher retention rates, said Domina, are also an important part of the story that’s left out of the Locke Foundation report. Stoops says that’s a factor he plans to look at in a future report.
“It’s easy to get teachers in the door, but it’s hard to keep good ones,” said Domina. “Idealism does get people in the classroom, but talking with former teachers over the years, the idealism doesn’t keep you there — it is hard grinding work.”
The kind of work that Domina says demands more rewards over the long haul than what North Carolina currently offers.…
Dr. Michael Maher, an assistant dean for professional education at North Carolina State University, pointed out that the last three years of data in the report authored by Stoops actually present a negative trend — between 2012 and 2015 there was a 30 percent drop in the number of out-of-state teachers coming to teach in North Carolina. And the numbers of teachers reporting that they left to teach in another state? That figure nearly doubled during the same time period….
Maher also said there’s yet another factor to consider when looking at importing teachers into the state — North Carolina has been a ‘teacher shortage state’ for at least 15 years.
“North Carolina hasn’t been able to prepare enough teachers to fill the industry’s demand even with all of our various pipelines—public and private teacher preparation programs, alternative teacher prep programs, etc.,” said Maher. “We just haven’t been able to produce enough teachers to cover the actual need.”
That problem will only grow as enrollment in teacher preparation programs has been on a sharp decline. Between 2010 and 2016, enrollment at 15 UNC schools of education has fallen by 30 percent….
There are a number of bills moving through the legislature right now that Maher says could help North Carolina move toward becoming a real destination for teachers.
The bill to restore the Teaching Fellows program is a good one, said Maher, along with a bill that would expand the NC New Teacher Support program. Another bill would eliminate licensing fees for North Carolina graduates.
Two other bills include incentives for building higher pay into the salary step schedule.
“All of this helps increase attractiveness,” said Maher. “Those are the kinds of things that we need to have in place, then look at data later on — are fewer teachers coming, are more people leaving, etc.”
And, said Maher, we have to do more to reward veteran teachers as well, who have largely been left behind over the past several years.
James Sadler [a transplant from Pennsylvania who would have faced a 50 percent pay cut and gave up teaching instead] said it would take a lot at this point in time to get him into a North Carolina classroom.
“There is a clear pattern of disinvestment in education in this state over the past few years, so if I were ever to reconsider teaching here, that would need to change.”
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