Carolina and N.C. State are launching a joint online program for people who have been hired to teach in N.C. schools but haven’t yet been fully certified to work in classrooms.
The program is intended to help the state address its widening teacher shortage by providing a new avenue for lateral-entry teachers to gain licensure. Lateral-entry teachers are people who have content knowledge who have been hired to fill teaching vacancies but lack a teaching license.
“We expect that this new initiative will bring to bear strengths of our two campuses in helping the state of North Carolina address a critical need,” said Fouad Abd-El-Khalick, dean of UNC’s School of Education. “This initiative will help improve learning for tens of thousands of school students across the state.”
The program, to be offered completely online, will be open to lateral-entry teachers in the fall. It will be offered in a partnership with D2L, a company that provides online platforms for university courses and has experience establishing and maintaining online competency-based education programs.
In its first year, the program will have capacity for about 50 participants, but it is being designed to expand quickly, said Diana Lys, assistant dean for educator preparation at UNC’s School of Education and one of the effort’s organizers.
“We’ve designed this program to make it convenient for working lateral-entry teachers, making it possible for them to master the competencies they need while they remain in their jobs and to gain knowledge that will help strengthen their effectiveness,” Lys said.
The accelerated program should take participants 12 to 18 months to complete and cost less than $5,000, she said.
School districts are having to rely more heavily on hiring lateral-entry teachers to fill vacancies, said Michael Maher, assistant dean for educator preparation and accreditation at N.C. State’s College of Education and another of the program’s organizers. But lateral-entry teachers leave the profession at a rate 79 percent greater than other teachers.
North Carolina employs more than 4,300 lateral-entry teachers, according to a 2015 report by the State Board of Education. More than 850 of them work in school districts near UNC and N.C. State.
The program plans to draw on expertise from faculty at the two campuses in the areas of teacher preparation, online and distance education, and competency-based instructional models.
The program initially will offer preparation in the content areas of mathematics, science, English/language arts and social studies. Organizers expect the program to be expanded in the future to offer a preparation program in special education.
“There is great demand for this type of preparation,” Lys said. “We hope that eventually we will be able to enroll hundreds of people in this program.
The program development is supported by a $148,000 grant from the UNC System, which sought requests for proposals from system campuses for new academic programs that would use competency-based education principles.
“Competency-based program design and delivery organizes learning around student mastery of content instead of seat time spent enrolled in a course,” said Michelle Soler, director for competency-based education and assessment for the UNC System.
While the program will use D2L learning management software, as with all UNC System competency-based pilot programs, curriculum decisions and content development will be controlled by faculty, ensuring rigor and that the programs meet academic standards, Soler said.
“UNC System competency-based education programs will also incorporate mentoring and guidance by dedicated coaches who will work with students throughout their progress through the program, with the intent of ensuring timely graduation,” she said.
The program will be designed to address the N.C. Professional Teaching Standards, Digital Learning Competencies and additional competencies developed by faculty at the two universities to address discipline-specific teaching strategies.
Organizers also plan to work closely with leadership of area school districts to identify additional competencies that address local needs.