Having moved to Chapel Hill five years ago, I have developed an appreciation for the issues that matter to our community, most significantly equity in education.
It’s clearly about doing whatever is needed to ensure all students succeed. Some students need more attention, or time, or resources, and we are obligated to make provisions. Our community challenge is to provide the school district with whatever it needs to deliver an equitable education.
I have noticed that some people like to appear at school board meetings and chastise the board for not fixing the achievement gap – a gap that has yet to be solved, nationwide, since the first day our schools were integrated. Somehow, these seven elected officials are supposed to have the magic pill.
Don’t misunderstand, I respect these accusers. They have good intentions, as do the board members, teachers, parents and everyone involved. However, we need to do less talking, less blaming and more doing.
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When discussing the achievement gap and inequities, we often use testing data as the conversation’s basis. Some argue, perhaps agreeably, that the tests are biased and inequitable.
Consequently, testing data unequivocally has limited utility.
Research proves that the biggest indicator of student success is not the “equity factors” like household income, parent education, and two-parent families. Those are important and not to be downplayed. However, these are all trumped by the quality of the classroom teacher.
It’s like an old algebra statement – if X, then Y.
Simply provide a highly skilled teacher in every classroom (X), then we can expect test score results to increase (Y). Conclusion: spend more time focusing on X.
Unfortunately, the X is complicated by a teacher shortage. It was forecasted for years. It has arrived – and it is massive. To make matters worse, legislative decisions, have made North Carolina a most undesirable spot for young teachers. Consequently, our school district cannot count on out-of- state recruiting for filling vacancies. Additionally, our state colleges are not providing enough teachers. They have seen a 30 percent nose dive in the number of students choosing to major in education!
The good news is our forward-thinking school district took a very proactive step to address this shortage. It’s simple – grow your own.
The “Teacher Assistant-to-Teach” initiative started this year in conjunction with N.C. Central University. Current teacher assistants, already holding degrees, are encouraged to apply to this new program.
The Office of Human Resources puts them through a rigorous selection process. Teaching jobs await them on the other end of their coursework. This will not fill all of our vacancies, but it helps, and provides outstanding teachers.
In a year when our board was forced to cut $1.5 million from its budget, exemplary leadership set aside $50,000 to start this initiative. It was a strong stance; it demonstrated a commitment to equity beyond “words.”
So, it is time for us, as a community, to stop the complaining and take action. We may pay higher taxes than other areas; however, many of us relocated here and purchased nicer homes with much lower taxes. Bottom line: a slight increase in taxes for the sake of increasing teacher pay will result in more world-class teachers in our schools.
With the Public School Foundation’s help, a campaign has been launched to match the board’s contribution and raise $50,000. This money will pay for 10 additional teacher assistants to become licensed teachers. To date, we have received over $31,500. We should all visit the Foundation’s website (www.publicschoolfoundation.org) and make a contribution, small or big, to this urgent cause.
Donate, ensure equity, bolster our teacher force, and provide every child with his/her best opportunity to succeed – a great teacher!