Teacher Shortage Impacts Eastern Carolina

Many school districts in Eastern Carolina are still searching for teachers.

Lenoir County currently has 15 vacancies. They do employ teachers from other countries, or visiting international faculty. Bertie County schools also has several teachers from other countries.

Pitt County is reporting no shortage of teachers. School officials in Pamlico County tell WITN-7 they are looking for two nurses, as well as a guidance counselor. Carteret County, meanwhile, is searching for two teachers.

Onslow County still has teacher vacancies. The school system recruits for teachers all over the country, but does not recruit internationally. With 23,000 stuents, Onslow County employs approximately 1650 certified teachers. The county fills about 300 vacancies each year.

Beaufort County currently has 8 unfilled teaching positions, while Martin County is dealing with six vacancies.

According to the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research,
geographically, the 10 highest rates of teacher turnover the last five years were, in order, in the Hoke, Warren, Weldon City, Franklin, Edgecombe, Vance, Charlotte/Mecklenburg, Tyrrell, Hertford, and Person county school systems.

Here is a release by the Center on the teacher shortage issue:

For more information, call
Mike McLaughlin at the
N.C. Center for Public Policy Research
at (919) 832-2839.
For an electronic version of the news
release, email tbromley@nccppr.org
North Carolina faces a chronic and growing shortage of public school teachers and must act now to
increase the supply of new teachers and retain more of the existing pool of teachers, says the N.C. Center for
Public Policy Research in a new study released today. The Center says the state’s rapidly increasing school-age
population, efforts to reduce class size, and a 20 percent or more annual teacher turnover rate in some school
districts will take the teacher shortage to crisis proportions if the state does not act quickly to get more teachers in
the pipeline now.
The Center’s research shows turnover rates for each of the 115 city and county school systems in North
Carolina for the last five years and the number of teachers produced by every public and private college or
university in North Carolina. The Center also makes specific recommendations to increase the number of teachers
produced and to help local systems better retain the teachers they have.
“On the supply side of the problem, North Carolina’s public and private colleges and universities and
community colleges need to produce more teachers,” says Mike McLaughlin, editor of the Center’s North
Carolina Insight magazine, where the research is published. “And, on the retention side of the problem, the local
school systems need to do more to nurture beginning teachers to prevent an early exit from the profession.”
The Impending Crisis
Currently, there are 86,000 teachers in North Carolina’s public schools. And, the state must hire about
10,000 teachers each year just to staff existing classrooms. Yet, all the state’s public and private universities
combined produce only about 3,100 teachers a year. Only 2,200 of these graduates end up teaching in North
Carolina, and only about 1,400 are still teaching three years later. Thus, the Center says local school systems are
increasingly relying on hiring out-of-state teachers and teachers entering the profession through lateral entry
programs to bridge the shortfall. Lateral entry allows professionals with at least a four-year college degree to enter
the teaching field and take up to three years to become fully-licensed teachers.
However, the Center says these stopgap measures will not be able to avert an impending crisis, caused by
three factors. First, the State Data Center estimates that North Carolina’s school-age population will increase from
1.4 million in 2000 to 1.6 million by 2010, adding demand for about 1,000 teachers a year. Second, Gov. Mike
Easley has successfully pushed for reductions in class size in kindergarten and 1 st through 3 rd grades, creating
demand for still more teachers. Third, the federal “No Child Left Behind” Act raises the bar by requiring “a highly
qualified teacher in every classroom.”
In addition to these factors, the Center says there already are acute shortages in particular subjects and
geographic areas of the state. The subject areas of greatest shortage are math, science, special education, and
foreign languages. Geographically, the 10 highest rates of teacher turnover the last five years were, in order, in the
Hoke, Warren, Weldon City, Franklin, Edgecombe, Vance, Charlotte/Mecklenburg, Tyrrell, Hertford, and Person
county school systems.
Center Recommendations To Address the Teacher Shortage
The Center recommends that the Governor ask the Education Cabinet to take on the teacher shortage as its #1 priority. Created by statute in 1993, the Education Cabinet includes the Governor, the President of the
University of North Carolina system (which is responsible for preparing the majority of the state’s practicing
teachers), the President of the N.C. Independent Colleges and Universities (32 of the 37 private colleges and
universities have teacher education programs), the Chairman of the State Board of Education (the board that sets
policy for public schools in North Carolina), and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Center says
the Education Cabinet should set specific targets for increasing production of new teachers, to reach 11,000
annually by 2010. Additionally, the Center says the Cabinet and the General Assembly should adopt a plan and
specific targets to address teacher shortages in subjects such as math and science and in certain geographic areas of
the state.
“Sharply increasing the supply of teachers is a critical part of solving the teacher shortage, but just
producing more teachers without doing better at retaining the teachers we have has been compared to pouring
water into a leaky bucket,” says the Center’s Mike McLaughlin.
To address the teacher retention problem, the Center recommends that the State Board of Education require
school systems with teacher turnover in excess of 15 percent annually be required to file Teacher Retention
Improvement Plans with the Board. The Center also recommends that the State Board of Education seek funds for
low-wealth counties with no or low teacher salary supplements and with teacher turnover higher than 15 percent.
School systems with Teacher Retention Improvement Plans would be the ones that qualify for these funds. The
Center says this recommendation also would help the state comply with decisions by the state Supreme Court in
the Leandro case to help low-wealth districts.
Teacher Turnover
Nearly one in three new teachers leaves the profession after three years on the job, and about 40 percent
leave after five years. Half of the new teachers in urban districts leave in the first five years.
For example, the Hoke County School System had the highest teacher turnover in the state over the last five
years, losing 25.5 percent of its total teaching work force. That school system is the lead plaintiff in Leandro v.
The State of North Carolina, a lawsuit the state lost that is forcing the state to provide more resources to help
financially strapped poor school systems. Four other school systems – Warren (22.5 percent), Franklin (20.8
percent), and Edgecombe (20.6 percent) county systems, as well as Weldon City Schools (21.5 percent) – had
average turnover above 20 percent over the last five years (1998-2003).
Barnett Berry, executive director of the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality in Chapel Hill, says poor
and minority students suffer the brunt of high teacher turnover. In a paper on recruiting and retaining teachers for
hard-to-staff schools, he says, “Poor children and those of color are far more likely to be taught by inexperienced,
underprepared, and ineffective teachers.” Berry adds, “High turnover among new teachers leaves students in hard-to-
staff schools facing a revolving door of untried novices who do not have the skills to help them reach higher
academic standards.”
Current Resources in Producing New Teachers
While the Center’s research on North Carolina’s teacher shortage revealed a strong need to increase
enrollment in teacher education programs, it also uncovered exemplary efforts to meet the state’s growing need for
teachers. Among these are the North Carolina Community College System’s 2 + 2 Program, in which students
are able to pursue a teaching degree through two years at their local community college and then two years through a cooperating four-year college or university with a recognized teacher education program, Internet-based classes,
extension courses, and other means.
N.C. Community College System President Martin Lancaster calls the program the “home-grown teacher
initiative.” He says, “Studies show teachers teach where they are taught.” That makes the program particularly
useful in rural areas where teacher retention is a problem.
Other noteworthy statewide programs designed to deal with the teacher shortage include the N.C. Teaching
Fellows Program, Troops to Teachers, and N.C. Teach. Administered by the nonprofit Public School Forum of
North Carolina, the Teaching Fellows Program awards 400 top-ranked high school seniors a four-year
scholarship in exchange for teaching four years in a low-performing school in North Carolina. About 82 percent of
the Fellows were still employed in the schools after they met their teaching requirement, and 73 percent were still
employed between their fifth and tenth years of teaching.
N.C. Troops to Teachers is designed to help former military personnel start teaching careers. The
majority of the federally funded program’s 328 teachers in North Carolina teach in high-need areas such as math,
science, and special education, says Paul Gregg, the coordinator for the N.C. program.
N.C. Teach is a lateral entry program operated at 13 regional sites by the University of North Carolina in
conjunction with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. Aimed at mid-career recruits with a bachelor’s
degree, it recently won a national award for its success in adding rigor to this non-traditional path to the classroom
and for increasing retention rates. Thus far, 1,000 North Carolina teachers have been licensed through N.C. Teach.
UNC system President Molly Broad says, “If you believe, as I do, that education is the defining domestic
policy of our state and nation, we simply cannot afford to fail in our efforts to ensure that every North Carolina
child has access to an effective and caring school with highly qualified teachers. In short, it is both a social and
economic imperative.”
The Center’s research on the teacher shortage in North Carolina was funded in part by grants from Progress
Energy of Raleigh and the Hillsdale Fund of Greensboro. The N.C. Center for Public Policy Research is an
independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research corporation created in 1977 to evaluate state government programs
and to study public policy issues facing North Carolina. The Center receives general operating support from the Z.
Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem, with additional funding from 13 other foundations, 150 corporate
contributors, and almost 800 individual and organizational members across the state. In addition to publishing
North Carolina Insight, the Center recently has conducted in-depth studies on ways to improve voter turnout in
North Carolina, on charter schools, on the pros and cons of state lotteries, and on how all 50 states govern their
public universities. The Center also publishes Article II, a citizens’ guide to the N.C. legislature.
Copies of the issue of North Carolina Insight containing the Center’s research on the teacher shortage are
available for $10, which includes tax, postage, and handling. To order, write the Center at P.O. Box 430, Raleigh,
NC 27602, call (919) 832-2839, fax (919) 832-2847, or email tbromley@nccppr.org.
For more information on the Center’s study of the teacher shortage in North Carolina, call Mike
McLaughlin, editor of North Carolina Insight, at the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research at (919) 832-2839.