The 2015-16 State Budget…Not sure if it was worth the wait

The 2015-16 State Budget is finally here. The best that I can say is that it could have been a whole lot worse. From what was outlined in the original Senate Budget to what was finally passed, the final budget moved much closer to the House Budget for Education. I would like to thank those representatives on both sides of the aisle who stood up for public education. The end result of the budget – it does little to further education but it is more about holding the line. Here are some of the major points regarding education:

Teacher Assistants: Teacher Assistants were fully funded, though any flexibility with these funds was eliminated. This provision has no impact on us here in New Hanover County Schools since we use all of our State Teacher Assistant Funds for that purpose.

Drivers Education: The budget fully funds Driver’s Education for the next two years. There will still be a charge of $65 that can be adjusted for documented financial hardships.

Employee Pay: This is one area where politics really played out. There was no raise for any group except for new teachers. Any pay raises were pushed to next year, which just happens to be an election year. There was, however, a $750 bonus for most state employees and a step increase if appropriate.

Textbook Funding: Textbook funding was increased, but it was not increased to the level that was in the original budget proposal. There is still a long way to go to get back to pre-recession levels here.

Vouchers: There was a significant increase in the amount that will go to vouchers. These schools are completely unaccountable to the state, and I believe this money would have been better spent on public schools.

School Accountability: There are a lot of rules/requirements related to schools that received low grades. Those schools are now required to submit improvement plans and to complete additional paperwork. I can only believe this a precursor to something much more intrusive. The irony here is that while this is in the budget, there are no extra funds to assist these low-performing schools.

There are many other provisions that we will delve into as we get more details. I would encourage everyone to read the budget via the following links:

The full budget:

The Money Report:

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NHCS Transportation – Safely Delivering Students to and from School

By Ken Nance, Director of NHCS Transportation Department

One of the biggest issues we deal with at the start of every school year is transportation. We field hundreds of inquiries that include a variety of questions such as: When does the bus pick up my child? Where is my child’s bus stop? Why did the bus stop change location? In a school system of our size, this can be a daunting task when you consider the various numbers involved in transporting students to and from school. To give a quick glimpse, here are a few facts:

On Monday, August 24th – the first day of school – 168 buses transported 12,000 students that traveled 12,000 miles while picking up and dropping off at 4,000 bus stops. These statistics will continue every day for the remainder of the school year.

To make all of these bus stops and safely travel all of these miles takes a lot of planning and preparation by the NHCS Transportation Department. During the first week of school, Transportation staff members received hundreds of phone calls, emails and personal visits from parents, school staff, the general public and even law enforcement. By Friday, the Transportation Department had responded to 99% of the requests, while working 12-hour days and still driving buses. At the end of the day, the only thing that really mattered was that the 12,000 bus riders got to and from school safely, which is the Transportation Department’s #1 priority each day – student safety.

Nationally, less than 1% of all student fatalities going to and from school occur on a school bus. The other 99% occur in cars and other modes of transportation. Each school bus:

• Offers a safer mode of transportation for students.
• Replaces 36 cars at a school and reduces traffic around the school.
• Significantly reduces CO2 in the atmosphere and helps the environment.

In addition, school bus transportation can also free up time for parents during the mornings and afternoons. A number of our schools experience long waits to drop-off and pick-up students. NHCS tries to make this process as smooth as possible, but the number of student car riders has increased considerably over the years. Additionally, overcrowding at some schools has contributed to the congested car rider lanes.

As we head into rest of the school year, we will continue to work to resolve any concerns with bus routes so that your child can get to and from school safely. Have a great school year!

For assistance, contact Valeria Jones, Supervisor of Eastern Central and Central Divisions, at (910) 254-4395, or Courtney Devane, Supervisor of Northern and Southern Divisions, at (910) 254-4154.

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Back to School…Ready to Start Another Great Year!

On August 24th, the vast majority of students will be returning to school in New Hanover County. To help our students throughout the school year, there will be over 3,000 teachers and support staff. After a successful 2014-15 year, I am truly looking forward to the 2015-16 school year. We are moving forward on our bond projects; we have new leaders in place; and we are excited about our efforts around a new career tech high school. The district and the Board of Education are committed to ensuring that every child has the tools necessary to be successful.

This year, you will see us break ground on the new Porter’s Neck Elementary School, begin to implement the technology aspects of the bond and also begin other major renovation projects. The overwhelming support for the bond was a true testament of how much community support there is for public education in our county.

Each new school year brings new faces as well, and this year is no different. We welcome new principals to Freeman, Bellamy and Sunset Park elementary schools, Williston Middle School, Lake Forest Academy, Wilmington Early College High School and the College Road Early Childhood Center. In addition, we will have almost 100 new teachers in place. These teachers come from all over the country, and they are excited to be teaching here in New Hanover County.

As we are looking to the future, New Hanover County Schools is working on creating a new vocational high school. Leaders from NHCS, Cape Fear Community College and other county agencies are putting together a plan for a unique and innovative technical school. We hope to have the plans ready to review this fall and will then work to secure a site and build an innovative career-technical high school that will offer students a variety of career-ready and college opportunities.

Again, I am optimistic that 2015-16 promises to be another successful school year! NHCS is here to support its students, parents and staff and offer the best educational experience in southeastern North Carolina. Welcome back to all of our students and staff!

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“It’s the Climb, Not the Slide” – Summer Learning Continues in New Hanover County Schools

by Dr. Julie Duclos-Greenwood, NHCS Director of Instructional Services

School is out for summer recess, but learning does not stop in New Hanover County Schools. Summer learning is the key to prevent the “summer slide.” On-going instruction allows students to maintain academic skills. Research indicates students who are engaged in summer learning activities continue to gain skills. On the other hand, students who do not receive instruction when school is in recess, progressively lose skills attained. Skill loss results in academic gaps. New Hanover County Schools provides students with summer learning opportunities to thwart the “summer slide,” which allows students to continuously “climb.”

NHCS Summer Program Highlights

Art Enrichment Camp:
Arts camp provides optional instruction in are variety of arts areas such as band, orchestra, painting, ceramics, drama, technology and photography for students in grades 1-12. Camps are located at Hoggard High School, Roland-Grise Middle School, Holly Tree Elementary, Parsley Elementary, Bradley Creek Elementary and Forest Hills Elementary.

NHC Summer Library Program:
All students of New Hanover County may attend the library learning program at six school sites. Any student living in NHC can attend programs offered at Blair Elementary, Carolina Beach Elementary, Pine Valley Elementary, Williston and Trask Middle Schools. Schedules and activities vary depending upon location. Program details are listed by school and shared on the NHCS website.

Title I Summer Learning Program:
By extending the instructional year by 20 days, the program’s goal to provide extra instruction to rising K students at Title I Elementary Schools, as well as rising 6th graders at Virgo and Williston Middle School. Extra instruction provides students with an academic jump and increased learning opportunity. With a focus on parent involvement and student-led learning, students are quickly engaged and continue to make academic progress.

Building Educated Leaders for Life:
The BELL Program assists rising 7th, 8th and 9th graders at Virgo and NHHS by providing math, reading and career awareness support. The program focuses on character development, college/career readiness and includes a range of experiential learning opportunities. Partnerships with outside agencies provide students with extra learning opportunities. BELL’s core values are respect, learning, excellence, collaboration and courage. Instruction is provided to increase literacy, math, build community, strengthen career awareness, and provide enrichment opportunity. Enrichment includes yoga, shadowing at businesses such as Verizon, Castle Branch and New Hanover Regional Memorial Center. Enrichment also includes classes on nutrition, dance, career advisement and college tours.

ESL Fast Start Summer School:
MC Williams Elementary hosts summer school for newcomer K-12 ESL students in New Hanover County. Enrichment and educational activities are provided to ESL students who have been living in the United States for less than one year.

AIG Brain Camp:
All NHC rising 4-6 AIG students can attend Brain Camp located at Forest Hills Elementary. The purpose of Brain Camp is to expand prior knowledge and extend thinking skills. Thinking labs are utilized by students to increase problem solving and higher order skills.

NCVPS Summer School:
Middle and high school students may receive online accelerated instruction and recover lost credits through the NC Virtual Public Schools Program. Site labs are available at Ashley, Hoggard, Laney, NHHS, and Mosley Performance Learning Center. Students can complete courses online through NCVPS and create their own learning pathway.

Education continues when vacation begins in New Hanover County Schools. All students experience some learning “slide” during academic breaks, but over the years the loss is cumulative, especially for students who lack skills or resources. Extended summer learning provides students with opportunities for academic success in the future. Our goal in NHCS is for every child, every day, to continuously “climb” academically, creating their own pathway to success.

Note: Student participation at some programs based upon eligibility.

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Trading One for the Other – Why Can’t We have Both Teacher Assistants & Reduced Class Sizes

Reading the news today can be confusing. A May 2015 headline in the Raleigh News and Observer claims there will be a $400 million state surplus. Then, I read a headline that says the proposed Senate Budget will cut 8,500 teacher assistant positions over the next two years and recommend the cuts in order to pay for the reduced class sizes in the early grades.

My question is why do we have to trade one for the other?

With a $400 million dollar surplus, the legislators could keep teacher assistants and decrease class size. I think there is a complete misunderstanding by legislators about what teacher assistants do in the classrooms.

Teacher assistants today are an integral part of what happens in an elementary classroom. Their position really should be called Instructional Assistants. We have emphasized that education should be personalized. Teacher assistants make this possible. Teachers create the learning stations, and the assistants work with small groups in these learning stations. They also do one-on-one instruction, allowing the teacher to keep the rest of the class moving. Teacher assistants help teachers assess students, which opens up more instructional time for the teacher.

Beyond the classroom, many teacher assistants drive buses and perform other vital school duties. In some districts, they are the primary pool of bus drivers. Legislators are proposing new rules to help provide duty-free time for teachers. If the teacher assistants are not available to provide supervision and duty, the duty-free time will be not be possible for teachers.

I would encourage our elected officials to visit classrooms and see what teacher assistants really do. I would also reiterate that it should not be a forced choice of either teacher assistants or reduced class sizes. North Carolina should invest in both.

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A Perfect Summer Reading Adventure for Your Student

By Stefane Beddard, NHCS Language Arts Lead Teacher

SUMMER IS HERE! As parents, we worry that much of our children’s reading progress will dwindle during the long, lazy days of summer. Aside from summer trips, camps and beach days, you can encourage your child to keep their reading skills sharp and their love of reading alive by providing access to engaging books and dedicating time for reading. Here are a few helpful hints to create a perfect summer reading adventure:

Allow your children to choose their books. When real world readers choose a book, they are reading to learn and to enjoy. Research confirms that selecting what to read is a major part of becoming a reader (Ollman, 1993). Being able to make choices positively affects the educational development of children. It helps children become both independent and responsible. They learn to adjust with differing levels of books, understand that there are different purposes for reading, and learn to assess their progress by gauging their choices against their own standards and the choices of others (Ohlhausen & Jepson 1992).

More books = more chances for your child to find a fantastic, amazing, very awesome book that they can’t put down. Consider keeping a basket of books in the car for children to enjoy while traveling to a vacation destination or even on the way to the grocery store.

Visit the Library-
1.) NHCS Summer Library Programs-
This year’s NHCS Summer Library Programs will be better than ever. Not only will students be encouraged to check books out for summer reading, but they will be able to return their selections, as well as choose new books, at any of the open locations. Plus, each location will be celebrating summer learning fun with special events and activities designed to fight the summer slide! From coding with kids, to comic book days, to battle of the books, to bring your pet to the library day, there will be something for everyone! Checkout the Summer Library Programs webpage for dates, locations and a complete calendar of activities!

2.) New Hanover County Public Library Programs-
This year’s summer theme is “Every Hero Has A Story To Tell.” The summer kickoff event is Saturday, June 20th. Visit the NHC Public Library website for more information.

Attend the Kids Music Festival at the Oceanfront Park and Pavilion at Kure Beach on Saturday June 20th-
Children can enjoy musical performances, participate in various activities from The Children’s Museum of Wilmington, experience events from North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher and have the opportunity to register for the Summer Reading Club.

Kids need opportunities for reading. Make sure they are not filling all of their time with TV, video games, and iPad time. As parents, we schedule sporting events, summer camps and family trips on the calendar. Consider adding time on the calendar for reading adventures too!

Don’t forget about audiobooks, Kindles, iPads, and Nook reading. These count too! Check out these free reading resources:

Free Reading Apps for Kids- Memetales, Storykit, ICDL Books for Children, Kid Mode: Play + Learn

Share the Love of Reading-
Kids love to be read to so make sure to read with your child this summer. Family reading promotes stronger relationships and communication. Have a conversation about an exciting part of the story, make predictions about the next chapter and discuss what the author may have intended the reader to gain from the book. Reading to our children creates a loving, literacy-rich environment which promotes self-confidence and a shared love of reading.

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One Data Point in Time: A Reflective Memo for Students, Parents/Guardians, Teachers, and Administrators

By Karen Greene, NHCS Testing Director

To the Students, Parents, Teachers and Administrators of New Hanover County Schools:

As the 2014-2015 academic year wanes, during the final days of the school year students in our district and across North Carolina participate in the End-of-Grade (EOG)/End-of-Course (EOC) assessments. The results are among the many ways to determine how well students are progressing in school, but it is only one measure, among the other indicators, of student achievement. Although the results are merely one indicator of student progress, it prompts parents, teachers and administrators to reflect on the academic year. As the assessment time nears, below are thoughts to consider.

To Our Students:
You have worked hard and have demonstrated your progress many times throughout the year. As you prepare for the assessments, remember the following:

- Do your best! Rest well and relax;
- Although taking the EOG/EOC is a chance to show what you know, keep in mind that your teacher monitored your progress all year, has lots of samples of your work, and knows how much you have progressed; and
- Your teacher and your parents/guardians are proud of you!

Thank you for working hard and doing your best each and every day!

To Our Parents/Guardians:
Thank you for all you have done to support your child throughout the school year! You have discussed your child’s academic performance with him/her, encouraged your child to ask questions about things not yet understood, and maintained open communication with your child’s teacher. In preparation for the end-of-year assessments:

- Note the testing schedule to ensure that your child is at school on time on testing days;
- Make sure that your child has gone to bed on time the night before so they are well rested;
- Serve a healthy breakfast including protein so that your child is not hungry during the testing session. If your child eats at school, the Child Nutrition Department will provide such;
- Encourage your child to listen to and follow all directions given by the teacher; and
- Remind them that this assessment is only one measure, on one day, during the entire school year.

Enclosed with your child’s final report card is an Individual Student Report which provides information regarding your child’s performance on the assessments. The results compare your child’s progress to other students in the same grade at the school, the district, and across the state. Please contact your child’s principal if you have questions about the report. You are a pleasure with which to work. Thank you!

To Our Teachers:
Great teachers are part of the key to success in our schools. You have worked tirelessly all year to design and implement effective strategies to ensure student success. As you analyze the end-of-year results, keep in mind the following essential questions:

- Did my students show growth? In addition to the end-of year results, what other pieces of evidence do I have to determine my students’ progress?
- Did my students demonstrate proficiency, meaning did they score at a level that indicates that they consistently demonstrate mastery of the content standards?
- How am I using the end-of-year results and the results from numerous measures during the year to reflect upon and improve my effectiveness?

You emulate a life-long learner as you continue to learn and grow. You have contributed to your students’ academic success and have demonstrated it in numerous ways throughout the year. Thank you!

To Our Administrators:
You create an environment which engages the community in the support and ownership of the school and develop strong relationships with students’ families and community members. You lead the staff in the use of the best instructional practices and model and encourage collaboration between teachers and create an environment in which the staff is accountable for the performance of their students.
As you analyze the end-of-year results along with multiple data measures considered for school improvement, use them to:

- Establish an understanding of the “big picture” of your school’s current state, including student achievement, and other important measures such as the school environment, teacher community, parent community, and administrative issues;
- Reach consensus across the school community on which needs represent the highest priorities for action based upon the potential to improve overall student and school performance; and
- Identify implementation goals and strategies, including specific targets, indicators and milestones required to address the school priorities.

You are a data-driven instructional leader committed to improving the school and its progress. Thank you!

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New Hanover County Schools’ 2015-16 County Budget Request

by Dr. Tim Markley, Superintendent & Mary Hazel Small, Chief Financial Officer

The 2014-15 school year is quickly coming to a close and I expect our students to achieve at a very high level. New Hanover County Schools continues to be the leader in the southeast region, surpassing surrounding counties. We are one of the highest performing urban districts in the state. This could not happen without county government support. Their support means:

• Assistance to overcome unfunded state and federal mandates.
• Additional teachers to support more high-needs students.
• Teacher assistants to help with small group instruction, which allows teachers to reach all students.
• More students will graduate than ever before.
• Opportunity to attract the best teachers and staff possible.

Our 2015-16 Budget Request is for $75,997,200, including both Operating and Capital funding. This budget request exceeds the prior year by $5.2 million (8%). The increase is being driven by several factors that include unfunded mandates from the state, increased cost for employee benefits and our desire to provide the best education possible for the students of New Hanover County. The budget was crafted with the needs of our students, front and center. Operating needs exceed the County Request by $2,320,000, and our recommendation includes using $1,033,000 of fund balance. For Capital Outlay, in addition to the County Request our recommendation includes use of available State Lottery and Technology Funds, along with fund balance in the amount of $1,033,000.

The first budget driver is unfunded mandates. A prime example of this is Driver Education funding. The state budget eliminates the funding for this mandatory program for next year and does not allow districts to charge enough to cover the cost of this program. While we hope the state corrects this, we have to develop our budget plan based on current law. Other anticipated mandates include estimated increases for state salaries, health care costs and employer contributions to the retirement system.

The next driver in this budget is student growth. We must ensure we have enough teachers to deal with our growing district. Our student population increased by over 300 this school year, and we are forecasting growth for the upcoming school year. We anticipate the budget will address this, though until we have a state budget, we must plan for the worst possible scenario. There are additional teacher positions in this request that help address the continuous growth. Without them, already crowded classes will increase, courses will have to be eliminated and programs trimmed.

The final driver and the most important one is making sure that the resources for student success are in place. Over the last several years, the state has significantly decreased funding for classroom resources and support. We continue to ask teachers to do more with less, but we believe it is critical to provide an appropriate level of resources and support to allow them to provide the services to students at the level our students need and deserve. This increase in funding would allow us to strengthen classroom support through increased instructional resources, professional development, administrative and mental health support.

In addition, we have included a 1% supplement increase for veteran teachers (26+ years), because this group of hardworking and loyal teachers has been ignored by the revised State Teacher Pay Scale. We are also requesting increased funding for custodial services, which were significantly reduced over the last several years to protect the classroom. Currently, we do not believe we are providing adequate custodial coverage in all buildings. While the detailed operating budget changes exceed our request, we are hopeful that some of these items will be included in the state budget.

We are very appreciative of New Hanover County citizens’ support for the 2014 School Bond Referendum, though additional capital outlay needs exist. We have documented our top priorities for the next two years, which will address several significant needs including:

• A new transportation facility for our Northern Bus Division at the Sidbury Road site. This division was moved from Laney High School in January, freeing up much needed space, but the site will need a new parking lot and building to house staff when we begin using the facility as a swing site for schools being replaced in the bond funding.
• Demolition and site repair for the old Lakeside School building.
• Renovations and repairs at several schools including bathroom renovations, HVAC upgrades, window and carpet replacements, and painting.
• Phase II of system wide classroom computer replacement.
• Furniture, equipment and vehicle replacements.

The capital needs will be funded from multiple revenue sources, including the North Carolina Education Lottery, for allowable renovation and repair projects, the state technology reserve (funded by state fines and forfeitures revenue) and fund balance.

To put this request into perspective, I wanted to provide a brief overview of our current operating budget. The total operating budget is $237,600,000, excluding child nutrition and capital outlay. Our total budget per pupil is $8,870, and the current county per pupil funding is $2,534. The local budget currently funds 15% of our instructional positions, along with an 8% teacher supplement.

Eighty-nine percent (89%) of the school system’s General Fund is funded by County Appropriation and used to fund 631 of our 3,700 positions. A breakdown of the positions is as follows:

• 51% for Salaries and Benefits for locally funded positions (excluding supplements):
     -418 Instructional (66%), including teachers and certified instructional support, assistant principals, and teacher assistants.
     -213 System wide Support (33%), including technology and maintenance support, custodians, clerical and central administration.

• 13% for Supplemental pay for teachers and school administrators paid by state and local funds.

• 36% for Non-salary line items including:
     -Instructional support (23%)
     -Administrative support (8%)
     -Technology and Operational support (49%)
     -Transfer to Charter Schools (7%)
     -Transfer to Capital Outlay (13%)

We are so fortunate to live and serve children in a county, whose leaders value the importance of education. Complete 2015-16 NHCS Budget information can be found at this link:

The Operating Budget by source and purpose is shown in the following charts:

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School Mental Health- Challenges and Supports

By Lisa Burriss, LCSW, NBCT, NHCS Lead Counselor and Social Worker

In serving well over 26,000 children and youth in the New Hanover County School system, there are numerous opportunities to identify and respond to the mental health needs of the students in our care. Teaching, modeling, and instilling mental health wellness for all students is as critical as assuring a quality education for each and every one. In fact, without a full spectrum that includes prevention, intervention and treatment, individuals as well as all stakeholders are at risk of unintended consequences.

When wellness is replaced by disorder or distress, assuring safety for the individual and the school is paramount. At times, the need is clear even if the solutions are not. Hidden indicators, on the contrary, present with added complications. Educators from varied disciplines must be skilled at recognizing signs and symptoms. Understanding that behaviors are motivated by thoughts and emotions, met or unmet needs, and the presence or lack of wellness, provides a framework for support.

A quick fix would be to stop the behaviors of concern or remove the student from the school environment. However, the matter is much too complex. The root of the misbehavior may be social, emotional, psychological or physical (lack of food, sleep, medical care). Substance abuse/misuse, sexual abuse or promiscuity, physical abuse and neglect, or unmet physical needs for survival may impede one’s ability to thrive and to achieve. Problematic behaviors may be trauma based, fear based, anxiety ridden, or the result of hopelessness. On the other end of the spectrum, students who believe themselves to be capable, connected and contributing are more likely to make healthy behavioral choices and experience wellness.

The challenge in schools is to equip students with coping skills that instill healthy living both emotionally and physically. The response must be rooted in school wide character building, outreach to groups, individual students and families as needed and a collaborative partnership with community resources.

Student Support personnel in schools, as well as the Central Office, provide extensive, multi-layered supports and interventions. School nurses, counselors, social workers, graduation coaches, school psychologist, behavioral specialist, school resource offices and site coordinators from Community in Schools provide individual counseling and specialized supports, large group initiatives, classroom guidance, and collaborative efforts with community resources. Guidance curriculum is integrated in academic subjects as well as athletics and the arts. Outreach to families includes access to food, housing, school stability, school supplies, and opportunities to enhance parent engagement.

At a higher level of need, New Hanover County Schools has a long standing contract with the New Hanover County Health Department which secures mental health therapists in 18 of the schools; the WHAT Clinic has established sites in three of the four traditional high schools, and three other local mental health providers have placed therapists in seven schools through a Memorandum of Understanding. Lake Forest Academy continues to secure day treatment for eligible elementary and middle school students.

The NHCS Crisis Response Team is ready on a moment’s notice to respond to critical incidents in schools. Each school must develop and abide by Safe School Plans collaboratively established with the Safe Schools Division and community emergency supports. Suicide and Self-Injurious Protocols are adopted and annually reviewed. Bullying claims are assessed.

In conclusion, the efforts to instill emotional and mental wellness in students is extensive and ongoing. Solutions to provide support, redirection, and care for those in crisis are vast and varied. The response to mental health needs must be significant and continue to remain a high priority in order to assure academic success and college and career readiness for all.

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The Looming Crisis

By Dr. Tim Markley, Superintendent

High school seniors around the country are finalizing college applications, and more than likely, they are contemplating their college major and ultimately, their careers. One major they are not choosing is education. There is a silent crisisshortage of teachersbrewing for the future and many do not realize that it is coming. Universities are seeing drastic decreases in the number of students enrolling in education. In some states, the number of students enrolling in teacher education programs is down by over 53%. Here in North Carolina, the number is down 20% in three years. This is also a trend for alternative teacher training organizations such as Teach for America. For a state such as ours, this is a pending crisis. We are the ninth most populous state, and one of the fastest growing states in the nation. Even now, we do not produce enough teachers in North Carolina to cover annual attrition and have to recruit teacher candidates heavily from out of state.

What is driving students away from teaching? Like many problems, there is not one easy reason to identify. Instead, there are a number of factors that have contributed to the crisis. The politicizing of education, the increase in high stakes testing, budget cuts, elimination of teacher scholarship programs and low pay are some of the major culprits. When all of these factors are taken into consideration, together they paint a picture of a career that is not as valued by the public as a whole. Teachers are often used as piñatas by politicians and policymakers to score points with their base constituents.

Unless there are changes made, this crisis will only accelerate. We need to stop this war on teachers and treat them as professionals. How do we do this?

Address pay issues
Support meaningful professional development
Restore teacher scholarships programs such as Teaching Fellows
Ease rules related to lateral entry
Allow easier transfers between states

We also need to work to keep the talented professionals we have currently teaching our students. We need to recognize their efforts by supporting their attempts to increase their skills. This means paying for master’s level education, rewarding high performance and giving them the tools they need to do their jobs, which includes more classroom resources, better facilities and the support of strong paraprofessionals.

Without changes, I worry about the future of our educational system. During this legislative season, let your legislators know how important teachers are to our future!

State legislators’ contact information is available on line at:

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