UNC system official explains N.C.’s prodigious drop in those seeking teaching degrees

school-busespng-91b35e2c325e0b5bMembers of the N.C. State Board of Education received some more troubling news about teachers Wednesday.

Alisa Chapman, vice president for academic and university programs in the UNC system, presented data that show the state’s increasing inability to attract students to the teaching profession.

Since 2010, enrollment in bachelor’s and master’s education programs systemwide has plummeted 30 percent, said Chapman. And while the plunge has slowed—enrollment declined just 3.4 percent from fall 2014 to fall 2015, Chapman told state education leaders that the trend should be “very concerning.”

“The challenge in hiring teachers in our state is going to increase,” said Chapman, adding that it would be “even more challenging” to recruit educators in rural counties, many of which serve a low-income population that tends to struggle academically.

In a state that ranks 42nd in teacher pay nationally, teacher satisfaction and recruitment figures to have a big year in 2016.

Chapman said the UNC system has responded to the dearth of students by assembling education enrollment plans and campus recruiting plans, as well conducting market research and launching a teacher recruitment website, Teach Now for N.C.

Still, state board members Wednesday said North Carolina needs action sooner rather than later.

“Obviously, it’s very disturbing,” said board member Patricia Willoughby, who pointed out that student enrollment in North Carolina has only grown since 2010.

“We have to have the conversation in our state that creates the long line to get into our schools of education,” added board member Wayne McDevitt. “It ought to be as competitive as getting into law school.”

McDevitt said a host of factors likely play into the teacher recruiting struggles.

“It’s associated with salaries, it’s associated with respect, it’s associated with professional development,” he said. “We’ve all got to put our shoulders together and come up with a comprehensive package. The return on that investment will be great.”

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