Politics & Government

NC won’t punish teacher prep programs if their grads quit teaching after 2 years

Updated on July 10

A compromise has been reached that will avoid punishing North Carolina’s teacher preparation programs if too many of their graduates quit working in the state’s public schools.

The Senate unanimously voted on Tuesday to pass a bill that would keep track of how many of the graduates from the different colleges and universities that train future educators are still working in the state’s public schools after two years. But under an amendment approved Tuesday, the data won’t be used for assessing those programs to determine if they should be sanctioned.

The change came after the educator prep programs balked at being held accountable for their students after they graduate. Without the teacher retention data, the programs would be evaluated on other factors such as the test scores of the students taught by their graduates.

“Some of the stakeholders were concerned about the fact that our institutions could be held accountable for teachers who may determine after beginning in the system they would not stay for two years,” said Sen. Gladys Robinson, a Guilford County Democrat, who proposed the amendment.

House Bill 107 returns to the House, which unanimously approved the Senate’s change on Wednesday. It now goes to Governor Roy Cooper’s desk.

North Carolina currently recognizes more than 50 different teacher preparation programs, mostly offered by public and private universities around the state. The state’s public schools rely on those programs to attract many of their new teachers.

The teacher turnover rate is down in North Carolina. But school districts have complained about the challenge of finding enough teachers, leading to efforts such as higher pay, making it easier to hire teachers from other states, giving more time for teachers to pass licensing tests and encouraging retired teachers to return.

The House included the teacher retention language in the version it passed in April. But Hope Williams, president of N.C. Independent Colleges and Universities, had urged the Senate to drop the wording.

“We would argue that we really don’t have any control once those teachers are in the school system,” Williams told the Senate Education Committee last month. “If they decide to go to New York or if they decide to go to graduate school or if they decide they’ll take an offer from a private company that may be paying them more than a teacher’s salary.

“Whatever reason that they decide to leave teaching is really not under our control.”

Williams said that the group would like the bill changed so that the teacher retention rates are reported as an informational item only. She said the group, which represents 36 colleges and universities, supported the rest of the bill.

Under Robinson’s amendment, the wording using teacher retention as one of the performance measures was eliminated. Instead, her amendment has the State Board of Education study whether a two-year retention rate should be included and that it would only be used if lawmakers gave their approval.

But Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican and one of the primary sponsors of the bill, told senators last month that keeping the wording on teacher retention sends the message that they want the programs to encourage their graduates to teach in the state.

“We want to encourage, cajole, pretty much do anything we can to see that our EPP (educator preparation programs) programs are sending a clear message that we want you in North Carolina,” he said.

Horn also said that he doubted that the retention rates would, alone, be used by the state board to sanction teacher prep programs.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.