The Next Generation of Teacher Prep?
The University of North Carolina in Charlotte has launched an on-campus high school for aspiring teachers. The new school, located in the same building as the education school, is the result of a partnership between the university's Cato College of Education and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system.
"Ensuring our local school systems consistently have available a well-trained, passionate group of new teachers is an important part of what we do," said Ellen McIntyre, dean of the Cato College of Education.
The Charlotte Teacher Early College High School opened its doors to 50 9th graders in the second week of August. Students will spend their first two years completing high school requirements, and in the remaining three years tackle general-education college requirements while training to lead classes of their own. By graduation, they will have earned up to 60 college credits that can be transferred to Cato College of Education where they can earn their teaching degrees.
Education schools across the country have experienced dwindling enrollment while, at the same time, many districts are scrambling to find qualified teachers to fill an uptick in job vacancies. Eleven days ago, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools still had 75 vacancies to fill, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Principal Will Leach has high hopes that the new high school can put a dent in the district's teacher shortage. "This is the only way to attack the problem," he told Education Week. "You get kids interested in the profession early on, expose them to good teaching, and this will take off. No question."
But Leach said the school on the Charlotte campus is just the first step. The goal is eventually to open a high school for aspiring teachers on every UNC campus, so that first-generation students in particular can get exposure to college life early on, taking general ed requirements alongside freshman and sophomore college students. The high schoolers will also observe and help out in district classrooms, gaining the experience they would get in a teacher-prep program.
The Tarheel State has made a big push to open "early college" high schools in recent years. The teacher school at University of North Carolina in Charlotte is one of 125 public high schools based on college campuses across the state. There are now two such high schools at UNCC: Charlotte Teacher Early College High School and Charlotte Engineering Early College High.
For aspiring teachers, the biggest enticement into the profession may come in the form of a free college education. Leach said efforts are underway to secure college scholarship money for graduates of Charlotte Teacher Early College High School who go on to pursue a teaching degree.
Such efforts to entice young people into the teaching profession are nothing new. Many high schools across the country have programs for aspiring teachers. But the Charlotte high school may be among the first to be housed on a college campus. That experience, according to Leach, can make all the difference in the world, especially for first-generation students who dream of one day becoming teachers.
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