by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Shannon Watkins of the Martin Center devotes her latest column to teacher education.
North Carolina schools have a serious literacy problem; most likely, that means it has a teacher education problem. The University of North Carolina system is exploring ways to correct the situation—yet questions remain whether they can effect much improvement.
The 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed that less than 40 percent of the state’s fourth graders are reading at grade level. Furthermore, despite having the highest graduation rate in the state’s history, only 41 percent of graduates meet minimum college-readiness standards. …
… Since the UNC system is the single largest source of teachers in the state, some UNC system policymakers view these trends as due, in part, to a failure of teacher preparation. During a recent policy meeting, Anna Nelson, UNC Board of Governors member and chair of the Committee on Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs, commented:
“I think one of the most important things we do in service to the state of North Carolina is to prepare excellent teachers. We are the number one resource for teachers in the state of North Carolina…We do this well, but we need to do it better.”
Actually, the university system was already on the case. In February 2018, it released a report on teacher education entitled Leading on Literacy. Although the report sought ways to improve teacher preparation in general, it had a particular focus on improving literacy instruction. It also noted that the content teachers learn often does not match up with what K-12 students are expected to know. To address this and other related issues, the report recommended that an advisory group be created to head a system-wide effort in teacher education reform. As a result, the Educator Preparation Advisory Group was formed and first convened in late 2018.