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Districts could be headed for teacher drop-off in the 2024-25 school year

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  • Between 2021 and 2022, there was a 42% decline in enrollment in schools or programs that train teachers. That could create a big problem in 2024-25, when the number of available teachers could drop dramatically.
  • "Districts need to be aware that in the 2024-25 school year, the availability of traditionally prepared teachers is going to be lower than they’ve seen in the past," said DPI's Tom Tomberlin about a dramatic decline in people who want to become teachers.
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Editor’s Note: The State Board heard updated information on educator preparation enrollment in March. This article has been updated with the most recent data.

North Carolina is witnessing a tremendous decline in people seeking to become teachers, which could lead to a large number of teacher vacancies in the 2024-25 school year .

The State Board of Education heard a presentation that showed enrollment in schools or programs that prepare teachers was down 39% between 2021 and 2022, bringing enrollment down to numbers not seen since 2017. This includes students seeking an undergraduate degree in teaching, Master’s students going after an initial license, or people seeking to become teachers through the residency route — essentially lateral entry from other professions.

Tom Tomberlin, the senior director of educator preparation, licensure, and performance at the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI), told Board members that these drops will really begin to be felt by districts in a couple of years.

“It is the 2024-25 school year that this enrollment is going to have the greatest impact, and we’re going to feel that impact,” he said. “It is important that we say this to the Board and in a public forum because the districts need to be aware that in the 2024-25 school year, the availability of traditionally prepared teachers is going to be lower than they’ve seen in the past.” 

Andrew Sioberg, director of educator preparation at DPI, told the Board that his team looked into the data to see what the declines looked like on a demographic level.

“Long story short, we did every subgroup analysis we could … and all of those areas are down,” he said. 

Enrollments are also down among almost all licensure areas, as are teachers entering the profession through a traditional route, such as pursuing an undergraduate degree.

Historically, the main route that prospective teachers take in North Carolina is to enter a university for that purpose. However, in 2022, more candidates took alternate routes (2,438) than traditional (2,283). Overall, traditional enrollments were down 44%, while alternative enrollments were up 14%.

From March State Board of Education meeting.

Tomberlin told the Board that neither it nor DPI can really impact enrollment, so it was important that districts prepare for greater recruitment of out-of-state teachers and bringing teachers in via the residency model. He also said they may need to increase advertising, as well as leveraging all other possible avenues for attracting more teachers.

“This is a serious finding that we’re presenting to you, and I hope we’ve done it in sufficient time that we can try to manage the impact of what this loss of enrollment will mean,” Tomberlin said.

See the February presentation below. Go here for the March presentation with corrected data.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.