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I admit it.  My wife is a Yankee social studies teacher who has taught in the North Carolina public schools for nine years.  Sorry.  She’s not going anywhere.


Earlier this month, Dr. Alisa Chapman, Vice President for Academic and University Programs for the University of North Carolina System, briefed members of the NC State Board of Education on the background, demographics, and qualifications of the state’s teaching profession.

Drawing on data from the 2011-2012 school year, Dr. Chapman found that, of the 95,543 teachers employed that year, approximately 37 percent of them were trained in UNC System institutions.  The next largest share consisted of teachers trained in other states.  Nearly 29 percent of North Carolina’s teacher workforce received their teaching credential from a college or university beyond our borders.  The remaining third of teachers could not be classified, came from a private university in North Carolina, or entered the profession through alternative entry, Teach for America (TFA), or Visiting International Faculty (VIF) programs.  

Do not be alarmed.  Do not blame Republicans.  Do not blame me.  This is nothing new.  For a decade or more, the UNC System and out-of-state institutions have supplied the majority of North Carolina’s public school teachers.  Dr. Chapman found that, between 2005 and 2012, there were only slight fluctuations in the percentage of teachers trained by the UNC System or "imported" from other states.

Data on teachers trained in UNC System institutions is plentiful.  Although Dr. Chapman has identified their states of origin, we know less about teachers trained in other states.  It should come as no surprise that New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and West Virginia supplied 12 percent or nearly 11,300 public school teachers during the 2011-2012 school year.  Permanent teaching jobs are harder and harder to come by in those states, because their populations are declining or aging, the local tax bases cannot support extravagant spending on public schools, and turnover is limited.   As long as supply continues to outstrip demand (and it will for the foreseeable future), growing school districts in North Carolina will continue to recruit teachers from these states.

Even more interesting is that North Carolina employed around 5,300 teachers trained in Virginia, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  The mainstream media and public school advocacy groups draw attention to teachers who leave North Carolina for "higher pay" in neighboring states.  (See, for example, the Quote of the Week below.) But they seldom acknowledge the fact that thousands of college graduates in these states flock to North Carolina for teaching opportunities. 

Relying heavily on teachers trained elsewhere has advantages and disadvantages.

One of the obvious advantages is that North Carolina public schools are able to fill the majority of vacancies created by student population growth and turnover.  Colleges and universities in North Carolina do not have the capacity to address the state’s need for teachers, particularly those needed for hard-to-fill positions, on their own.  In addition, North Carolina’s public schools receive the benefit of their training at little to no cost to taxpayers in this state.  Taxpayers in other states subsidize, at a significant cost, the schooling of teachers employed in North Carolina.  Simply put, they pay and we benefit.

There are, however, disadvantages to out-of-state recruitment.  Dr. Chapman compared the performance of teachers prepared by the UNC System with the performance of teachers who enter NC classrooms with other types of preparation, such as out-of-state, alternative entry, TFA, or VIF.  Her massive dataset included "2.9 million test scores, 1.4 million students, and over 28,000 teachers with less than 5 years of experience from all school districts in NC."  After using multi-level models to evaluate value-added effects and 44 student, teacher, and school variables, Dr. Chapman found that UNC System graduates and TFA teachers generally outperformed young out-of-state teachers on measures of student performance.

Moreover, there is some concern about the retention of out-of-state teachers.  While 74 percent of those trained elsewhere remained in North Carolina public school classrooms after three years, only 57 percent stayed after five years.  Both retention rates were below those of teachers trained in both private and public universities in North Carolina. It is worth remembering that young professionals who relocate to North Carolina are less likely to have a compelling reason to stay. Those who do remain in the state may opt for jobs in other industries, return to school, or leave their positions for reasons unrelated to the jobs themselves.  For teachers who leave, it is possible that they return to their home state to teach, although I am not aware of data that would allow us to either validate or disprove that hypothesis.  Given that their average performance tends to be lower than UNC System and TFA teachers, perhaps we should welcome the departure of those damn Yankees and those from inferior Confederate states.

Knowing where teachers are trained has significant implications for teacher recruitment, retention, and development in North Carolina.  Any discussion of the public school teacher pipeline must acknowledge that it is not enough to talk only about increasing teacher education graduates from North Carolina colleges and universities.  Rather, we need to think about strategies to recruit regional, national, and international talent from both traditional and nontraditional training programs.  In addition, our public schools need to find ways to broaden the applicant pool, such as establishing a high-quality fast track to the teaching profession for early- and mid-career professionals from the public, non-profit, and private sectors.  Only a thoughtful, multifaceted approach will ensure that we will continue to meet the needs of our public school classrooms.

Acronym of the Week

TFA — Teach for America

Quote of the Week

"At a meeting of Governor McCrory’s education cabinet last week, Andre Peek, director of Global Technology Services at IBM and chair of the North Carolina Business Committee for Education asserted that North Carolina is now a "net exporter of teachers."

It’s an observation Peek has made from working groups in which he has participated and in his travels across the state. It’s not rooted in data–yet, he told N.C. Policy Watch."

– Lindsay Wagner, "Is North Carolina a net exporter of teachers?" N.C. Policy Watch, September 26, 2013

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