Bridging K-12 pipeline gaps

Teachers working at computers

Bridging K-12 pipeline gaps

Working with community partners, UNCG’s Institute for Partnerships in Education has recently launched several initiatives to address shortages of qualified K-12 educators in North Carolina.

Addressing STEM Teacher Shortages

A collaboration between IPiE and Guilford County Schools is addressing our pipeline of quality math and science teachers.

“We were facing severe shortages of math teachers, especially after COVID, when we saw a lot of teachers leaving the profession,” says Dr. Alison Coker, Guilford County Schools deputy chief human resources officer. 

What started off as a collaboration with IPiE for a math residency program designed to recruit, develop and hopefully retain skilled math teachers is now the Math and Science Teachers of Tomorrow, or MST2.

MST2 builds on UNCG’s strong teacher education expertise by targeting a growing group of people with content knowledge in math and science, who want to learn to teach.

“The future of teacher education is changing, and we’re likely to see a lot of folks entering the profession with a bachelor’s degree in something other than teaching and a passion and interest in working for kids,” says Dr. Nicholas Kochmanski in teacher education and higher education. “They have the content expertise but don’t have the background in how to support kids’ learning.”

Guilford County Schools pays for these new instructors to pursue a master’s of teaching at UNCG, where they also receive coaching on meeting statewide requirements to continue teaching in North Carolina. In return, participants commit to one year teaching in Guilford County Schools for each semester they spend in the MST2 program. 

Social Innovation

It starts with a desire to solve acute community problems. It’s facilitated by critical partnerships. It grows out of creativity and cross-disciplinary savvy. As UNCG builds a culture of social innovation and entrepreneurship, NC communities reap the benefits.

A Need for Library Media Coordinators

The success of MST2 attracted the interest of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools after they identified a need for media centers staffed by qualified media specialists. At the time the problem was identified, 40 percent of the district’s schools were without a dedicated library or media specialist.   

They’ve tapped UNCG’s online master’s in library and information science program to train a cohort of 10 teachers. “We could not have done this program without IPiE,” says Dr. April Dawkins in the information, library and research sciences department. “When Charlotte-Mecklenburg approached us with the idea for the cohort, the institute helped us figure out the logistics for funding the cohorts’ course tuition.”

Following the MST2 model, Charlotte-Mecklenburg funds tuition costs for each cohort member. In exchange, the teachers earn their MLIS degrees and pledge to stay with the school system for a minimum of two years. 

For the teachers in the cohort, their courses apply to their positions in real time. “Our partnership with UNCG is an essential element of our efforts to recruit and retain highly effective school library media coordinators,” says Kimberly Ray, director of Digital Learning & Library Services for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. 

“After only one semester following the launch of this collaboration, already the positive impact has been felt by several thousand students who now have access to a school librarian enrolled in a high-quality library program.” 

Tailored Teacher Development

UNCG is also working with school districts to develop micro courses for K-12 educators that can even lead to graduate course credit. The work, led by IPiE, started with Asheboro.

“Asheboro City Schools is committed to improving the teacher experience and re-professionalizing education and teaching,” says Wilson. “They’re funding the micro courses and putting their teachers at the frontier of what we know about good teaching and learning. It’s an awesome effort to elevate teachers and their work.”

The process began with a survey of faculty in the district to understand what development opportunities were most needed and wanted. The resulting micro courses each involve five in-person sessions.

“It’s a way for us to support the school districts while also giving the educators credit towards an advanced degree,” says Freeman, who also serves as a micro course instructor for Asheboro. “This is consistent professional development where they can build on their learning.”

IPiE has since expanded these offerings to Orange, Randolph, and Guilford County school systems. Courses are tailored according to each district’s needs and choices.

  • Alison Coker and teaching student
  • Coker with multiple teachers
  • Coker pointing a student's work on laptop
  • Teachers meeting to discuss STEM
  • Teachers trying hands-on methods for teaching STEM
  • Teachers discussing lesson plans
  • Teachers practicing with STEM manipulatives

Dr. Faith Freeman, Dr. Gay Ivey, Dr. Edna Tan, and Dr. Holt Wilson lead professional development microcourses for Asheboro City School teachers. 

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