The Corner

Education

North Carolina Confronts its Poor Teacher Preparation

Many North Carolina students lag behind in academic ability; only 40 percent of fourth graders read at their grade level and only 41 percent of high-school students graduate with college-level reading skills. Those figures have remained steady for years, despite state programs to improve upon the poor results.

Perhaps the problem is rooted in the state’s teacher preparation programs. Maybe lots of teachers are not good at teaching reading. Maybe they aren’t good readers themselves.

In today’s Martin Center piece, Shannon Watkins looks at the latest moves by political and education leaders to improve teacher preparation in the state. The UNC Board of Governors has formed an Advisory Group to make recommendations.

The trouble is that the people behind that group are mostly the same education “professionals” whose ideas are responsible for the state’s problems. “Current trends in educational outcomes,” Watkins writes, “are almost assuredly due, in part, to programs created from prior research produced by schools of education. Looking toward more recent research by the same sources that caused the situation in the first place may mean a continuation of the problem, rather than a cure.”

A huge part of our poor teaching is the fact that entrance standards for college “education schools” are quite low. That fact has been known for a long time, but so far UNC leaders have done nothing but talk about it. Watkins writes, “So far, UNC officials have only paid lip service to setting high standards. They’ve done so by stating that they will evaluate ‘candidates’ mean scores on college entrance exams’ and ‘pass rates on pre-professional skills tests.’ However, they have not yet defined what test scores students will need in order to be considered ‘highly qualified.’”

The education blob will probably protect itself against any significant changes. Parents who want high-quality instruction will need to look for affordable private schools.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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