Education

Inexperienced Teachers A Booming Trend

Mar 4, 2013
Ben Bradford / WFAE

The push for high-performing college graduates and non-teachers from other professions to enter the classroom has reached an all-time high in the past few years. Proponents of “alternative entry” see it as a fast way to send motivated, knowledgeable instructors into schools—particularly high needs schools and subjects like math and science—but their inexperience and high turnover rate has drawn fire from critics.

It used to be that learning to write in cursive style, was just a part of growing up.  But in this age of keyboards, keypads and tablets -- many people are asking, ‘is cursive writing still relevant?’   A set of common curriculum standards adopted by North Carolina and 44 other states since 2010 does not mention cursive writing.   But a bill introduced in the state legislature would require public schools to teach cursive writing.    WFAE’s Mark Rumsey looked into the issue.

A couple years ago CMS was charging full steam ahead with a plan to pay teachers based partly on their students’ performance.  But it upset so many teachers and parents, the district put a halt to it.  Now, CMS officials are reviving the idea and trying hard to avoid past missteps.  They’ve asked teachers to begin working on another plan. 

WFAE’s Lisa Miller joins All Things Considered host Mark Rumsey to discuss the latest efforts.

RUMSEY: Lisa, why is CMS talking about this issue again? 

Charlotte Mecklenburg School officials have a $34 million capital plan to improve security at all of the district’s schools.  It includes cameras and 8 foot tall chain-link fences on all campuses.  But the plan still requires buy-in from the county commission. 

The idea is to limit the number of entry points into schools.  Think about high schools like Myers Park and West Mecklenburg that have sprawling campuses reminiscent of small colleges.  CMS Chief Operating Officer Millard House says it’s too easy for intruders to get inside.  That’s where the 8 foot high fences come in.  

Lisa Miller

This week about 2,200 elementary school kids will be getting free laptops.  It’s part of the Project LIFT effort to boost learning at nine schools on Charlotte’s west side. 

These laptops are made for kids.  They’re white and green and sturdy. 

“It has the handles so it wouldn’t fall when I’m holding it because I really drop stuff without handles,” said Maya Dunbar, a third grader at Allenbrook Elementary. 

Winthrop University has named a new president.  Jayne Marie Comstock has served as a senior administrator at a handful of small universities. 

For the first time in twenty-four years, there will be a new face in the president’s house at Winthrop this summer.  Comstock is leaving her post at the American Council on Education to replace retiring president Tony DiGiorgio.  She says she’s long been impressed with the school and is eager to be a part of its next chapter.    

The number of applications to open charter schools has jumped significantly since the charter school cap was lifted in 2011.  There used to be a couple dozen applications per year.  This year 156 groups plan to apply and that means a whole lot of work for the people who review them. 

Joel Medley is in charge of the office that oversees all of the state’s charter schools.  This year, he expected to hear from a lot of groups wanting to open schools, but not quite this many. 

Tasnim Shamma

For almost a year, students at UNC Charlotte have been hard at work designing a solar house that is both affordable and energy-efficient. That hard work has paid off. Their design qualified for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon's biannual competition.  

For the next eight months, UNC Charlotte engineering and architecture students will be busy building the house. UNC Charlotte is one of only 20 teams to qualify for the competition.   

Should Teachers Train To Fight Shooters?

Feb 11, 2013
Ben Bradford/WFAE

A Gaston County martial arts instructor held a seminar a week ago for teachers about how to respond in a school shooting. First grade teachers, school nurses, and administrators practiced how to defend a classroom should a shooter try to enter, and how to fight back. Similar events have been popping up across the country, run by martial arts gyms, firearms training centers, and even schools, in the wake of Sandy Hook.

Courtesy of UNC Charlotte

The Levine Cancer Institute and UNC Charlotte are teaming up for a new project they hope will make a difference in the world of cancer research. It's called the Charlotte Pancreatic Cancer Project.

UNC Charlotte and the Levine Cancer Institute will be making $400,000 in grants available to scientists and doctors at both institutions. 

basketball
GonchoA / Flickr

Charter schools are supposed to offer a free, independent alternative to traditional public schools. North Carolina has just over 100 of them, and the state board of education is expected to approve 25 more at its February meeting.

Big companies, government offices, and media outlets like NPR often have ombudsmen – they’re trained to handle complaints and to try to resolve disputes. And universities are no exception: NC State, UNC Chapel Hill, and Duke all have them. The latest UNC system school to create an ombudsman position is Appalachian State University in Boone. The school has appointed a long-time professor to set up the office, Jim Barnes. He’s been on the job since January 1. He says complaints last year about a professor factored into creating his position, but the idea had been discussed for a while.  Barnes talks to Morning Editon host Duncan McFadyen about getting the office off the ground.

Four CMS schools that serve pre-k through 8th graders could move to a year-round calendar next year in an effort to boost learning.  The CMS school board plans to vote on the proposal tonight.
 

All kids have experienced the “summer slide.”  When students get back to school in the fall, they spend time re-learning what they forgot over the summer.  But for low-income kids, that backsliding can be even bigger since camp and other enriching activities are harder to come by. 

South Carolina has long had a college loan forgiveness program to attract aspiring teachers to needy schools.  But most public schools in the state are now on that list.  Some state education officials want to tweak it and make sure the program is really directing teachers to the neediest schools. 

Kids are half-way through the school year and no doubt talk of end of year tests has already come up in class.  There are some big changes in store for students across the state.  For one, there will be a lot more end of year tests and they won’t just be multiple choice.  They’ll include essay questions.  It’s not just kids that’ll be tested.  It’ll be a test for teachers in more ways than one. WFAE’s Lisa Miller is in the studio to talk about these changes, including a flood of new tests. 


Reducing the rate of high school dropouts and empowering students to succeed is a goal of several organizations in the Charlotte area, including the Arts & Science Council. They're launching a new program that seeks to serve at-risk students called Studio 345. The program is based on another initiative that's been in operation in Pittsburgh since the 70's. It uses the arts, education and the surrounding community to help students achieve. We'll meet Bill Strickland, founder of the National Center for Arts and Technology, and find out how the implementation of a program like his will help kids in the Charlotte region, when Charlotte Talks.

We’ve heard a lot of success stories from charter school advocates as they’ve tried to gain support for them. But not all charter schools provide a good education and a leading charter school advocate is the first to admit that. In fact, he’s now pushing for states to close more charter schools. Greg Richmond is the director of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. He says up to 1,300 charter schools in the country are failing their students, including a few in North Carolina.

A new cyberbullying law goes into effect December 1 in North Carolina. It’s called the 2012 School Violence Protection Act, and it makes it a crime for students to post anything online with the intent to intimidate or torment a school employee. It unanimously passed the state Senate and fell just a vote short of that in the House.

Duncan McFadyen

UNC Charlotte’s Student Government Association is meeting November 29 to discuss gender-neutral housing. The proposal would ask school administrators to allow students to choose roommates of the opposite sex. The student group Campus Allies has been working for more than a year to get gender neutral housing at UNCC. Anthony Dondero is a transgendered member of the group. He chose to live off campus.

Athletic Department Insider Says UNC Tolerated Cheating

Nov 27, 2012

There are new allegations in the academic scandal in the UNC-Chapel Hill athletic department. UNC’s football team is already on NCAA probation, in part for improper help players got from a tutor. Now, a former academic support counselor named Mary Willingham has come forward with allegations that numerous people in her department knew there were problems, but looked the other way. In some cases, athletes were so far behind that academic success was almost impossible--- she says some had never read a book and didn’t know what a paragraph was.

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