UNC Ponders Revamp of Education Degree

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education has proposed a redesign of the program for aspiring preschool, elementary, and middle school teachers. The proposal is aimed at raising the requirements in these areas of study, according to Laura Oleniacz, writing for The Herald-Sun. UNC will continue its bachelor’s degree in music education and the UNC-BEST program in place to allow science and math students to add the education course work needed to be licensed as a high school teacher in four years.

The plan would eliminate its bachelor’s degree for preschool, elementary, and middle school teachers and replace it with a master’s of arts in teaching program that could be completed in approximately one additional year with undergraduate work and summer courses.  Dean Bill McDiarmid said the changes are being considered because of budget cuts, policy changes, and a push for teacher quality.

“To be quite honest, if everything in the world was perfect, I wouldn’t be going necessarily in the direction of closing down our undergraduate (major) program for elementary,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is, I’ve lost almost 40 percent of my budget since 2009, and we simply can’t do everything we’ve always done with such a dramatic reduction in our resources.”

McDiarmid said the school of education is committed, but officials are still working on making  the proposal happen.  The plan includes a full year of school internship, so they will also need some time to work with school partners.  The change, if approved, will probably take place next year.

Part of the redesign will include ways to create common foundation courses for both elementary and secondary students.   One of the biggest policy changes was that the state’s Teaching Fellows Program, which provided four-year scholarship loans to high-school seniors who would teach in state public schools for four years.  After the four years, the loans were forgiven.  The last class of fellows will graduate in 2015.  The North Carolina General Assembly cut funding for the program in 2011.  It also eliminated extra compensation for teachers who earn a master’s degrees.

Enrollments for schools of education are on the decline, and UNC is feeling the crunch, says Danny Hooley, writing for WCHLHowever,  Anne Bryan, assistant dean for Student Affairs at the UNC School of Education, says that they are keeping up with the times in one way by offering a minor to students who want to be in the education policy arena, rather than teaching.  In general, the School of Education is ramping up recruitment through college fairs, open houses, information sessions, and partnering with admissions to get the word out.

Zoe Locklear, dean of UNC-Pembroke’s School of Education said,“It’s an erosion of the profession — or the perception of the profession. Teachers themselves say, ‘You don’t want to do this for a living.’”

Bigger classes, less money for resources, and low salaries all contribute to the decline of undergraduate education applicants, reports Mary Tyler March of The Daily Tarheel.  In North Carolina, 30% of the 95,500 employed teachers are new, and about one-half leave within the first five years of teaching.  The General Assembly has, however, raised salaries an average of 7% for all teachers.  UNC sophomore Maria Kim said:

“I think the bigger issue with education is the lack of respect for teachers,” she said. “It’s a deeper problem than just pay — here, teaching is treated as a last-resort kind of profession.”

At the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, efforts are being made to change the trend.  The NC New Teacher Support Program is in place to provide support and professional development for new teachers during the first three years of their careers.  The larger goal is to retain beginning teachers and to address the issues related to supply and demand of educators in North Carolina, reports Carter Coyle, writing for WGHP-TV.  Also, Dr. Karen Wixson, Dean of the Education School of UNCG, says they are starting their own version of the teaching fellows program.

“A year from this fall, we’ll admit the first groups of students and we will provide scholarship money for these students for all four years,” she said.

They have the resources to fund eleven students per year, she said.

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