Opinions

The Past, Present, and Future of Education in North Carolina

 

Brianna Wilson
  Staff Writer

Many of us know of the ever-present disregard of education by local legislatures in our state. North Carolina has been ranked as one of the worst states in our country for teacher pay and per student spending.

Our state, UNCG especially, has been known to create some of the best teachers in the country. People from all over, even Texas, come to recruit teachers from this university with good reason.

Teacher pay in North Carolina is so low that when we choose to stay and teach here we have to buy our own school supplies and have trouble making ends meet. The sad fact of the matter is that there has been an exodus of North Carolina teachers who go to other states because they cannot thrive on such meager pay or don’t want to teach in a state where they feel so blatantly disrespected.

We are losing so many amazing teachers to other states because North Carolina refuses to pay them enough. When we produce some of the best teachers in the country, why does our state continue to pay teachers so little and make their jobs harder by not ensuring teachers have the supplies they need to teach?

For better or worse, things may be about to change. In the last campaign for governor, the spotlight issue for debate was education. Pat McCrory made claims that he intended to raise teacher pay and make education great in North Carolina, while he also attempted to cut education funding to its lowest budget share in 30 years in 2015.

Governor Roy Cooper’s main platform in his campaign was that he was going to make education great in North Carolina. He said all North Carolinians deserve a world-class education. He is the son of a public school teacher. He attended public school until he graduated high school. He then sent his daughters to public school.

He has fought to raise teacher pay and reduce class sizes. Roy Cooper obviously has the background to support his claims of dedication to making education better in our state, but I am not so sure that teacher pay and class sizes are all we should be worrying about in regard to the education of our children.

Teacher autonomy in our country, our state, and even our county has been under attack over the recent past. Programs like No Child Left Behind, Common Core, Standardized Testing, and the ARC Program are problematic for teachers and students alike. Teachers have reported having less autonomy in recent years because of standardized, high-stakes testing.

Educators are being forced to teach to a test and a scripted curriculum that is determined by government officials who aren’t in the classroom and will not experience the new program firsthand. Students have reported having anxiety over the high-stakes testing that are required by Common Core and No Child Left Behind.

Students have been told by the country that these tests are what determines if they are successful or not, if they will move on or not. End Of Grade and End Of Course tests were ever meant to be used for determining if a student moves on to the next grade level.

It even says this in the EOG Handbook, but local legislatures and school systems have decided otherwise. This choice has created a very real fear of these tests in many of our students. This practice overall is causing low morale and high anxiety in classrooms.

On the local level, the ARC Program is a local reading program that has been implemented by Guilford County Schools while makes teachers read a script and teach books assigned by the program. Teachers all over Guilford County feel a lack of control over their own classrooms because of this.

The program has only been implemented in every grade level up to ninth, but the plan seems to be to continue on to tenth up to twelfth. Teachers are having to read from a script… A script. I will not have gone to college for four years to read a script, and most teachers didn’t either.

We have been trained by other teachers who have taught for years. We have to have two years in the classroom as interns and student teachers before we can be certified. We are the experts in the room. We know all about our chosen subject area. We have been trained on how to teach students. We have the passion and dedication to be amazing teachers. Why won’t they let us? Why have all these programs that deprive teachers the ability to be the kind of teachers they want to be?

Hopefully, Governor Cooper will question the educator’s reality in the same way.

I believe our new governor will do some great things for education. He will raise teacher pay, reduce class sizes, and ensure the needed supplies are available. What I want to know is what he, and our federal government, will do in an attempt to ensure teacher autonomy in the classroom because I think that is one of the biggest issues affecting students and teachers in our state.

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