Great teachers and school leaders matter, because it is their great influence that makes a positive impact on student academic and social growth. We are all honored that, during the months of March and April, EdNC featured the work of the outstanding teachers and influential school leaders involved with the NC New Teacher Support Program. As a featured series entitled Great Teachers and School Leaders Matter, our program was highlighted in the Division of Academic and University Programs at the University of North Carolina for the impact made on teacher retention, teacher effectiveness, and student learning growth.
In the spirit of those who matter, great teachers and school leaders, this month’s newsletter continues to showcase exemplars of our collaborative work with school districts and institutions of higher education. Together, we collectively demonstrate positive impact throughout our great state of North Carolina, from the beaches to the mountains.
All the Best,
Bryan S. Zugelder
Mark Meacham, UNCG Region Instructional Coach
Mark Meacham serves as an Instructional Coach for the NC New Teacher Support Program for the UNC-Greensboro Region where he works with Alamance Burlington School System beginning teachers in middle and high classrooms and across content areas Mark also teaches Secondary English courses in the UNC-Greensboro School of Education.
Prior to joining the NC NTSP, Mark taught English Language Arts for 16 years in high schools with high needs populations. In 2005, he served as the Alamance-Burlington Schools Teacher of the Year. Mark is an expert in using pop culture to enhance the curriculum and engage students.
Mark earned his B.A. in English at UNC-Wilmington, his M.F.A in Creative Writing at The University of Iowa, and his Ph.D. in Teacher Education at UNC-Greensboro.
When he is not supporting beginning teachers, Mark loves watching football or attending his daughter’s swim meets.
Recent Event Spotlight: WCU
Western Carolina University’s College of Education and Allied Professions recently held a Professional Development Day for teacher interns graduating in May. The excitement was palpable as interns entered the Education Career Fair. With resumes in hand, future teachers wove through the aisles as they greeted representatives from school systems around the state of North Carolina. Dr. Chená Flood, Director of the Office of Field Experiences and Regional Director of the WCU region of the North Carolina New Teacher Support Program said of the event, “This was the third semester a professional development day has been sponsored by the Office of Field Experiences and Clinical Practice. As the new director, I felt it was worthwhile to provide our graduating interns with a conference style professional development opportunity in addition to the education job fair sponsored by career services. The interns have consistently provided favorable feedback on the level of professional development but I believe the feedback was elevated this time because we engaged the NC New Teacher Support Program’s Instructional Coaches in our efforts.”
Among other events at the March 17 professional development day, 84 teacher interns listened to an educator panel respond to questions about teaching. Serving on the panel was first year teacher, Bekah Mulligan, who is part of the North Carolina New Teacher Support Program (NC NTSP) and a teacher at Smokey Mountain High School. Concurrent afternoon sessions were held with topics including: Actions teachers can take to improve the Profession, Understanding the IEP, How to Create Effective Assessments to Enhance Student Learning, Building Positive Relationships with Parents, and I got a job! Now what?.
Western Carolina University NC NTSP coaches Tierney Fairchild and Jennifer Beck led the session, “Memes” to Survival, using pop culture memes as a springboard to explore strategies to overcome the inevitable struggles in the first years of teaching in the areas of parent teacher communication, classroom management, teacher burnout, and effective planning.
At the end of the day, a future sixth grade science teacher said, “This day is just what I needed to keep me energized throughout the rest of my internship. I am so excited about being a teacher!”
NC NTSP Asks: Q & A with Shakisha Young, NC State Region
The North Carolina INnovative Statewide Program to Improve the Recruitment of Educators (NC INSPIRE) is a statewide alternative entry teacher preparation program. NC INSPIRE’s efforts center on recruiting highly qualified recent college graduates with degrees in mathematics or science to become middle and high school teachers in high-need school systems. As well, NC INSPIRE recruits qualified college graduates to teach special education in K-12 classrooms across the state. NC INSPIRE Fellows are selected based upon a comprehensive application and interview process. Only 40 fellowships are awarded each year statewide.
The NC NTSP partners with NC INSPIRE to provide critical support to these beginning teachers in the form of professional development and instructional coaching. Shakisha Young, a BT III, teaching 8th grade science at Overhills Middle School in Harnett County, is a current NC INSPIRE Fellow and NC NTSP program participant. Shakisha recently spent some time with her NC NTSP Instructional Coach, Jaye Taylor, reflecting on her experiences as a beginning teacher.
JT: After graduating from college with a degree in Biology, what made you decide to become a teacher?
SY: I decided after graduation that I would really like to teach. But at the time, I was unable to afford to return to school. I worked in an insurance office and took care of my family. We were living in Alaska and I knew I would have to put my plan of becoming a teacher on hold.
JT: How did you get involved with NC INSPIRE?
SY: We returned to North Carolina after almost 4 years in Alaska. As soon as we returned I went online to try to find some teacher programs I could possibly participate in. When I found NC INSPIRE and was accepted into the program, it made my dream possible. We moved back to NC in February and by August I was teaching at Overhills Middle School.
JT: What has been most challenging for you as a beginning teacher?
SY: Most definitely, that would be behavior! Middle school can be tough!
JT: What is an exciting moment you have had in teaching?
SY: At the end of my first year, many of my students had 3s and 4s on their science EOG. My students’ scores were some of the best in my school. The students were so excited and so was I. That was the moment when I really knew I could do this!
JT: How has the NC NTSP helped you as a beginning teacher?
SY: The professional development has been great! Not only have I learned so much, but it has always been helpful to come together with other new teachers. The program has made it easy for us to attend these sessions, providing us with rooms, food, reimbursement for gas, and even substitutes. Just knowing I have the support of a coach has been such a big plus. I feel that I have been able to advance and excel more than other new teachers who don’t have this type of support. Other teachers in my school ask me about “this person” that comes to see me all the time and they wish they had this type of support!
Research Spotlight: Teachers Matter
Research regarding teaching and learning during the past decade consistently characterizes classroom teachers as the most important school-related resource influencing student achievement (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2013). Historically, North Carolina has led the nation in their recognition of the academic gains possible when taught by qualified, well-supported teachers.
Examples of our state’s recognition of the influence of the teacher workforce are evident over the past 30 years. During this period, for instance, North Carolina implemented and funded the Teaching Fellows Program, recognized and rewarded teachers who completed the rigorous National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, invested in the teacher workforce by funding competitive wages for teachers, and maintained an active role in a national movement toward state standards and accountability.
Today, however, teachers in North Carolina are increasingly asked to do more while simultaneously provided with less. For instance, the Teaching Fellows program is no longer state-funded, teacher compensation and school funding have been eroded, salary incentives for graduate degrees have been eliminated, and career status for experienced teachers continue to be contested. Collectively, these recent moves have created “a policy context that appears to be averse to teaching” (Bastian, 2015, pg. 12) - a point not ignored by the Teacher Working Condition Survey (TWC).
From the field. Administration of the TWC survey in 2014 revealed that 7.4 percent of the respondents planned to leave education entirely – an increase of greater than 60 percent over the 2012 survey responses. Similarly, more than 14 percent of teachers left their school district during the 2013-14 school year – representing a 3 percent increase over the rate reported in 2009-10. Practically speaking, this results in the replacement of 3000 teachers statewide (Bastian, 2015).
Whether these results are due to recent changes to teacher support, financial recognition, or an aging workforce, the fact remains that many classrooms in North Carolina succumb to a “revolving door” (Ingersoll, 2004, p.2) of the instructional workforce.
U-Shaped distribution of teacher attrition. When plotted against age and experience, early career and late career teachers represent the majority of teachers leaving the profession resulting in a familiar U-shaped curve. Understandably, the majority of late career teachers attrite for retirement; however, early career teachers leave at an alarming rate. For instance, only three out of every four traditionally prepared teachers from the UNC system remain in teaching after five years (Bastian, 2015). Consequently, North Carolina’s teacher workforce is comprised largely of early career teachers (Ingersoll & Merrill, 2010). Specifically, one-fourth of the state’s teachers have fewer than 5 years of experience, and first year teachers comprise the majority of that demographic. Moreover, early career teachers are more likely to leave the teaching profession than other career teachers. These data are indisputable, but the reasons for teacher attrition creating a U-shaped curve are more elusive and the need for meaningful solutions has never been greater for our students and the future.
North Carolina has seen a steady increase in teacher turnover over the past five years - 33% increase as compared to 2010-2011 levels (Central Carolina RESA, 2016). When asked for reasons of attrition, teachers reported “personal reasons, resigns to accept a position in another state, and dissatisfaction with teaching/career change”. 2014-2015 retention data in the state reveals the instances of these reasons for attrition are steadily increasing over 2010-2011 levels and are particularly acute in the Northeast and North-Central regions of the state (Central Carolina RESA, 2016).
Pipeline. Teacher shortages and a declining enrollment in colleges of education are a national phenomena, however one that affects North Carolina disproportionately. For instance, North Carolina’s public colleges of education account for a mere one-third of the teachers required in classrooms across the state. Consequently, to staff classrooms in the State, more than 50% of our teachers were prepared in another state or arrive in classrooms through an alternative pathway.
Support. Ingersoll and Smith (2003) describe the teaching profession as one that “cannibalizes its young” (p. 28). Others describe new teachers as being “Lost at sea” (Kauffman, Johnson, Kardos, Liu, & Peske, 2002). Few professions, other than education, expect their early career teachers to perform at the same level as their more experienced counterparts with little or inconsistent guidance from more experienced staff. While this is not an indictment of any single shortcoming, it is to reinforce the notion that teachers are continually being asked to do more with less and less support inevitably will reproduce the alarming trend in teacher retention in our state.
The recommendations of several authors referenced in this spotlight are simultaneously straightforward and logical. For instance, “provid[ing] teachers with the necessary supports and resources [will] enhance their job satisfaction and effectiveness in the classroom” (Central Carolina RESA, p. 6), while Bastian suggests, “providing high-quality, comprehensive induction support services to all teachers in their early-career period” (2015, p.16) to advance both the quality and retention of the state’s educator workforce. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina (EPIC), a comprehensive coaching model featuring regular support combined with focused professional development has been correlated with increased teacher retention and gains in student achievement - “the NC NTSP boosts novice teacher value-added in elementary and middle grades, and increases novice teacher retention in the lowest - achieving schools” (Bastian, 2015, p. 8). While the North Carolina New Teacher Support Program cannot claim to address all the issues that our state faces with regards to an impending teacher shortage, we are a part of a solution that works to improve the attrition rates of new teachers in our state.
Bastian, K.C. & Marks, J.T. (2015). Initial results from the Race to the Top evaluation of the North Carolina New Teacher Support Program: A policy brief. Available from: http://cerenc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/0-FINAL-NTSP-preview-memo-2...
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (2013). Ensuring fair and reliable measures of effective teaching: Culminating findings from the MET Project’s Three-Year Study. Available from:http://www.metproject.org/downloads/MET_Ensuring_Fair_and_Reliable_Measures_Practitioner_Brief.pdf
Central Carolina RESA. (2015) Time to Face the Growing Teacher Shortage in North Carolina. Retrieved from: http://www.ccresa.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/FacinguptotheGrowingTeacherShortageinNC.Final_.pdf
Ingersoll, R. M. (2004). Why do high-poverty schools have difficulty staffing their classrooms with qualified teachers? Center for American Progress, Institute for America’s Future.
Ingersoll, R. & Merrill, L. (2010). Who’s teaching our children? Educational Leadership, 67(8), 14-20.
Ingersoll, R. M., & Smith, T. M. (2003). The wrong solution to the teacher shortage. Educational Leadership, 60(8), 30–33.
Kauffman, D., Johnson, S. M., Kardos, S. M., Liu, E., & Peske, H. G. (2002). Lost at sea: New teachers’ experiences with curriculum and assessment. Teachers College Record, 104(2), 273–300.
James Kenan High School in Warsaw, NC is no stranger to accolades. Walk into the front door of the school, and one is greeted by banners proclaiming to parents, students and visitors that James Kenan is doing great things. The North Carolina State Board of Education bestowed upon James Kenan its most recent honor. Recognized as a STEM School of Distinction, James Kenan High School is leading the state in model leadership and instruction in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.
Mr. Michael Holton, principal of James Kenan High School, describes the path to STEM distinction as an in-depth, comprehensive process. All high schools in Duplin County initially applied to the rigorous process in hopes of attaining the coveted award of STEM School of Distinction. Mr. Holton notes that the first phase of the process is a thorough paper application that has to be submitted in order to be considered for the award. Once applications are reviewed, schools are then alerted if they make it to the next round-a site visit. The site visit is grueling; it involves interviews with multiple stake-holders, classroom visits and observations. While two schools in Duplin County emerged from the paper application process as contenders for the award, only James Kenan High School won the honor of STEM School of Distinction. Mr. Holton speaks proudly of how his staff attended numerous workshops and took advantage of professional development opportunities so that they could learn how to incorporate STEM into the classroom. He also explains how hard his staff worked to ensure that STEM was finding its way into every curriculum and every classroom. He considers the award to be a reflection of his staff’s commitment to academic rigor for the students at James Kenan.
Mr. Holton, who acknowledges the hard work that went into this honor, is also quick to point out what this ultimately means for the school and the community. “It means that STEM education is a part of every department and every class at James Kenan. It means that teachers are doing everything to make STEM education a part of their everyday instruction.” His lens for STEM education at his school extends beyond the four years that students spend at James Kenan High School. “Our ultimate goal is to better prepare students to exit high school or college and successfully find a job in a local industry so that they can positively impact the economy of Duplin County.”
Mr. Holton and his staff are not resting on their laurels for very long. Within the next few years, Mr. Holton plans to apply to become a STEM School of Distinction at the Model Level, an even more exhaustive process. When talking about how to achieve this new goal, Mr. Holton delightedly describes his next venture for the school--an on-site, student -led farm complete with livestock and produce. He describes the huge agricultural community that Duplin County has and how he wants to train students to become well-versed in the world of agriculture. By training students to meet the needs of local industries, he hopes to provide an economic boon to Duplin County.