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A Journey of Significance: UNC Colleges of Education, the Time to Act Is Now

Grant HayesIn 2017-18, North Carolina reported 1,618 teacher vacancies. Those represented classrooms that were without a teacher at worst or were without a properly trained teacher at best. At the same time, enrollment in the UNC system’s schools of education has dropped 30% since 2010.

Across the country, teacher shortages are affecting public education. In Oklahoma, the state has issued 3,000 emergency teacher certifications which allow people to begin teaching without education coursework, classroom experience or passing state certification exams. Data collected by the Oklahoma Association of Colleges for Teacher Education shows that emergency-certified teachers are rated lower and leave teaching at a higher rate. We do not want to see this troubling trend happen in North Carolina.

UNC system teacher graduates make up the bulk (37%) of teachers in N.C. public schools. UNC system teacher graduates are more likely to return in years 2-5, showing a commitment to the public schools of N.C. And UNC system science and math teacher graduates outperform teachers prepared in other ways.

In the coming months the East Carolina University College of Education will continue to showcase how we prepare our graduates to be the best in their chosen fields through their diverse and comprehensive skill sets. We will continue to foster our extensive and ongoing partnerships with over 40 school districts. We will continue to place our students in rural settings to help prepare teachers to provide quality instruction in the classrooms that need them the most. We will continue to employ innovative practices like co-teaching to provide appropriate and effective supports that help our graduates grow into excellent teachers.

North Carolina has long boasted a commitment to and a history of excellence in education. Part of that success is due to the impressive record that our state’s colleges and schools of education have of producing excellent and resilient educators who transform the lives of the students they serve.

But we must begin to show that this works and that what we do matters.

When I first became dean of ECU’s College of Education, I spoke about the need we had as a college to distinguish ourselves because we are the best equipped to do the important work of training teachers. After all, ECU began as a school for teachers. This has been defining work for our college, and we think the time has come for us to move beyond just articulating our impact and telling our stories of success.

We’re asking our alumni and the public for their support as we shift our attention from our successes to our significance. As we begin this work, we invite other UNC system schools and colleges of education to stand beside us as leaders of the profession to demonstrate our success and prove how we are significant.

We believe that the significance of our work transcends our success because demonstrating our significance shows our real value as institutions. As John Maxwell has said, “Success is when I add value to myself. Significance is when I add value to others.” The schools and colleges of education in N.C. provide access to a high-quality research and learning experience and position graduates to positively transform the environments in which they live and work. Schools and colleges of education in the UNC system are transformative and our work is significant.

The time is now to prove how vital we are to public education in North Carolina. Our communities need it. Our state demands it. Our children deserve it.

Grant Hayes is dean of East Carolina University’s College of Education.

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