NC sees decline in teachers passing exams and decline in teachers from colleges of education

Posted December 4, 2019 6:20 p.m. EST

— North Carolina has seen a decline in the rate of teachers passing their licensure exams and a decline in the number of teachers being produced by colleges of education in the state, according to a report presented Wednesday to the State Board of Education.

Data from licensure exam pass rates show that 96% of teachers who took the exam in 2014 passed. Last year, only 80% did. But Tom Tomberlin, the state’s director of educator recruitment and support, said that doesn’t necessarily mean teachers are less qualified.

Tomberlin pointed to a change in 2016 that allowed teachers multiple years to pass the test, possibly leading some teachers to procrastinate and not worry about passing the exams right away, he said.

State Board of Education member Amy White questioned whether teachers' declining passing rates could be tied to lower student test scores.

“If you’ve spent four years at a university in an EPP (educator preparation program) and you can’t pass the content test and the pedagogy test at the end of the thing, then we have a problem, and it’s showing up in our test scores,” she said.

Tomberlin said he understood White's point but said local school systems tell him they'd rather hire a teacher who takes a few years to pass the exam than bring in a long-term substitute teacher.

State Board of Education members also expressed concern about a 20% drop in the number of teachers being produced by colleges of education in North Carolina from 2015 to 2018.

“That strikes me as systematically concerning,” said State Board Vice Chairman Alan Duncan. “That’s a very serious issue if we continue to drop at 20% every four years or roughly 5% a year on average.”

Tomerblin acknowledged it is a concern and said North Carolina has seen a shift in where teachers come from. North Carolina colleges of education used to produce about a third of the state's teachers, but now only produce about a quarter of them. More teachers are coming from alternative pathways, such as lateral entry, which allows people to begin teaching right away while trying to get a professional educator's license.

An issue with this shift, Tomberlin explained, is that teachers who come from colleges of education in North Carolina "are by in large more effective than either out-of-state teachers or alternatively prepared teachers." On average, about 70% of teachers trained by North Carolina colleges of education are still teaching after five years while only 50% of lateral entry and out-of-state teachers are doing the same, according to Tomberlin.

"It's a serious issue," he said.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is creating a new online dashboard that will track North Carolina's colleges of education and the quality of teachers they produce. The UNC System used the track the information, but it did not include private colleges and universities with education programs. Lawmakers decided to transfer the dashboard to DPI so more information can be compiled.

Among the things DPI will be tracking at colleges of education:

  • Students applying
  • Students admitted
  • Students completing
  • Number of graduates licensed in NC
  • Number of graduates employed in NC
  • Number of graduates converting license from residence to initial or continuing professional license
  • Graduate evaluation ratings
  • Graduate EVAAS (Education Value-Added Assessment System) ratings
  • Graduate impact on student proficiency
  • Graduate satisfaction
  • Pass rates for licensure exams
  • Race/ethnicity by sex
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