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6 things about the trickling teacher pipeline

Kristin Cubbage, a teacher at Ashley Park K-8 School and an “opportunity culture” classroom leader.
Kristin Cubbage, a teacher at Ashley Park K-8 School and an “opportunity culture” classroom leader. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Maybe it’s just because it’s teacher recruitment season, but hardly a day goes by where I don’t hear a Charlotte education leader discuss the pressing concern of whether there will be enough teachers to fill up the region’s classrooms.

The issue was the main point of conversation this week at a joint event held by MeckEd and the Public School Forum of North Carolina. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Ann Clark has said it’s what keeps her up at night the most.

I’ve written pretty extensively on this in the past. The conclusion is based on both teacher turnover rates higher than state government as a whole, and dwindling enrollment in UNC-system teacher training programs.

“Our crumbling teacher pipeline in North Carolina is real,” said Keith Poston, executive director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina. “It’s not something we’re making up.”

Here’s a few new things I learned at the event.

▪ Districts in states like Texas have built up sophisticated social media and digital advertising campaigns to recruit teachers, said Chance Lewis, an urban education professor at UNC Charlotte.

▪ Poston said he’s heard talk in Raleigh about eliminating the teacher assistant position altogether. This isn’t something I’ve heard, but he’s around the capitol a lot more than I am.

▪ The CMS “opportunity culture” positions that give teachers as much as $20,000 more per year for taking a leadership position while remaining the classroom are upending the normal pecking order in schools – but Clark says that’s a good thing. In some cases, teachers are out-earning their supervisors. “We have got to prioritize the positions in our schools,” she said.

▪ Retired teachers who want to come back and teach part-time don’t have many options right now. Clark said CMS would love to hire two part-time teachers to, say, share a math class, but they would have to give up a lot of benefits from the state to make it happen. Clark said they’re hoping for a legislative fix.

▪ Teacher recruiting is a relatively new emphasis at CMS. Sure, they’ve gone to career fairs for years. But Clark said that three years ago, the district didn’t have a dedicated recruiting team. Now they do.

▪ CMS plans to have Chromebooks in every 9th and 10th grader’s hands by next year. Right now, every middle school student has one. Fifth grade might come next year as well, Clark said. Part of this is driven by the state’s expectations that students will take EOGs electronically. But Clark calls it a “game changer” in recruiting teachers excited about using technology in the classroom.

Dunn: 704-358-5235;

Twitter: @andrew_dunn

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