Local News

UNC System Task Force Aims To Recruit, Retain Teachers In N.C.

Posted January 8, 2004 9:55 a.m. EST

— Finding enough teachers for every classroom seems to be a never-ending challenge in North Carolina.

School systems across the state are left searching for close to 12,000 teachers each year. The

University of North Carolina System

supplies about 2,500 teachers, but wants to increase that number through an effort to recruit and retain teachers.

As a high school science teacher, Maya Merritt is in high demand.

"I had no problems finding a job. After graduating with my bachelor's in biology, I realized I didn't want to work in a lab, I wanted to work with students," she said.

It could be said that teachers like Merritt are in a class of their own.

"I think we're going to run into trouble in a few years," Merritt said.

Every year, North Carolina comes up short in the classroom. Some people think one solution to the shortage starts on college campuses.

"We need to become more proactive in this. It's critical," UNC task force member Dr. Richard Thompson said.

The board has formed a task force to tackle the issue. It is working on 25 proposals aimed at drawing more people into the profession. Among the ideas is starting a statewide recruitment plan.

"That would emphasize TV spots, billboards, other kinds of media," Thompson said.

The task force is also looking at increasing the number of available college scholarships for future teachers and expanding the transfer programs between community colleges and universities.

While recruiting teachers is one problem, keeping them is another. A mentor program supported by the university system could help.

"We lose about 48 percent of our folks in the first five years," Thompson said. "When we ask people why they leave, they say lack of support."

Keeping experienced teachers like Merritt in the classroom would reduce the teacher shortage and take some pressure off the annual recruitment scramble.

Another proposal would target minority recruitment. The UNC task force would like to see more African American and Hispanic teachers in the classroom.

The state did get some good education Wednesday.

Education Week

said North Carolina is one of the top 10 states in the country trying to improve teacher quality.