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NC will only require 1 semester of teacher prep classes to work in high schools

Bryce Joseph, center, and Sonny Lehdo, left, work pre-calculus blended class at Millbrook High School Wednesday morning, February 17, 2021. Wednesday is the the first day of face-to-face classes since March 2020 for Wake County high school students.

Bryce Joseph, center, and Sonny Lehdo, left, work pre-calculus blended class at Millbrook High School Wednesday morning, February 17, 2021. Wednesday is the the first day of face-to-face classes since March 2020 for Wake County high school students.

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North Carolina will try to address the national teaching shortage by allowing people who complete just one college semester of teacher preparation classes to become part-time high school instructors.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Monday that he signed legislation that allows people to become a high school “adjunct instructor” if they teach classes related to their bachelor’s degree or graduate degree. These adjunct instructors would only have to complete at least one semester of courses concentrating in teacher preparation at a community college.

Senate Bill 582 had been unanimously passed by the General Assembly. Lawmakers had talked about the value of bringing people like doctors, pharmacists and accountants into the classroom to work with students.

“The best teachers that I had at the high school and college level were folks that came out of the industry with real-life experience,” Sen. Jim Burgin, a Harnett County Republican and one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said at a legislative committee meeting this month. “That really changed my life and my career.”

Making it easier for non-educators to teach

The new law will make it easier for non-educators who don’t want to go through the “lateral entry” process of getting a license to become a teacher.

Adjunct instructors would only be working part-time — up to 20 hours a week or for less than six months at a time — so they wouldn’t need a teaching license. Instead of taking a full load of classes, they’d only need to complete one semester, or about three teacher preparation classes.

Schools would have to train adjunct instructors in areas such as educating students with disabilities and how to positively manage student behavior. They’d also need to pass the same background checks as licensed teachers.

Adjunct instructors could teach high school core academic subjects, arts classes and foreign language classes “in their area of specialized knowledge or work experience.” Several lawmakers had cited the national teaching shortage in supporting the legislation.

The new law also calls for the State Board of Education to develop criteria to allow faculty members at colleges to serve as adjunct instructors in K-12 fine and performing arts classes and foreign language classes. Currently, they can only be adjunct instructors in K-12 “core academic” subjects, like reading and math.

The North Carolina Association of Educators took a neutral position on the legislation.

The announcement of the bill’s signing came the same day that the Senate released a budget proposal that includes a 3% raise over the next two years and $1,800 in bonuses for teachers. Cooper proposed a 10% raise and $2,000 bonus in his budget plan.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.

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