Add at least one “minority-serving” college or university to the NC Teaching Fellows Program to increase diversity in the North Carolina’s teacher workforce, the state’s Program Evaluation Division (PED) recommended this week.
There’s currently no such school among the five that offer the merit-based, loan forgiveness program. It provides up to $8,250 a year for up to four years to students who agree to teach in the fields of special education or S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) in state schools.
The term “minority-serving” is used in this instance instead of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to incorporate Pembroke University, which has traditionally served Native Americans.
“Despite achieving slight improvements in the diversity of its teacher workforce during the last few years, a sizable gap remains between the share of teachers of color in North Carolina and the share of students of color,” the PED report states. “A gap exists in every LEA in the state and in every other state in the country.”
More than 80% of the state’s teachers are white, while 52% of students are minorities.
The importance of diversity in the teaching profession has been widely debated in education circles. Some studies show that Black students are more likely to graduate high school and attend college if they have just one Black teacher in elementary school.
North Carolina should also develop an alternative to licensure exams to allow teacher candidates to demonstrate competency, recommended the non-partisan unit that evaluates whether public services are delivered in an effective and efficient manner and in accordance with state law.
Black and Latinx students are often tripped up by the standardized tests they must pass to earn a teaching license.
A recent study by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that such tests screen out 8,600 of 16,900 teachers of color each year.
The PED is a unit of the Legislative Services Commission of the General Assembly. The Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee (JLPEOC) oversees formal evaluation of state agency programs by PED.
JLPEOC asked the evaluation division to examine the effectiveness of current efforts to increase teacher diversity.
The PED found that North Carolina doesn’t have a dedicated effort to produce, recruit and retain teachers of color, which has led to “wide variation in district-by-district diversity” and that local supplements and geographical factors often play a role in determining if students will be taught by a teacher of color.
“Disparities in resources result in some LEAs and charter schools being able to fund efforts to increase the proportion of teachers of color in their classrooms, whereas other LEAs and charter schools are less capable of doing so,” the report says.
The PED also found that local districts, charter schools and state educator preparation program have resorted to their own efforts to increase teacher diversity and that the effectiveness of those efforts are not certain.
Other states have options for recruiting and retaining teachers of color that North Carolina could emulate, the report said.
The JLPEOC will vote on a bill draft next month that directs the State Board of Education to develop an alternative plan and consider alternative qualifications for teachers to receive a continuing professional license. It also directs the Teaching Fellows Commission to select at least one minority-serving institution to participate in the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program.