UNCG’s School of Education ranked among the nation’s best education schools in the most recent US News and World Report survey. Employer satisfaction played a key role in that strong showing, says the school’s dean, Dr. Karen Wixson.

When surveyed in 2012, employers of UNCG teacher education graduates reported that these teachers are knowledgeable about the subjects that they teach, understand state and national expectations for student achievement, and are well prepared to work with families and colleagues to promote student learning. Overall, employers rated their satisfaction with graduates of UNCG programs 3.44 out of 4.

And a good number of the school’s new teaching graduates don’t have to look far for work. Guilford County Schools employs about 30 percent of them.

“Although the rankings are the result of a combination of factors, the highly positive rating we received from superintendents who employ our graduates contributed significantly to our overall ranking,” Wixson says. “This rating is consistent with the frequent feedback I receive from superintendents, curriculum coordinators and principals about the quality preparation and performance they have come to expect from UNCG graduates.”

Dr. Larry Coble, executive director of the Piedmont Triad Education Consortium, agrees with Wixson that UNCG-trained teachers perform well in the real world of the classroom. Coble, who served as superintendent of four different school districts during his lengthy career in education, now works closely with 15 Piedmont school districts.

“My experience has been that school superintendents have nothing but the highest praise for UNCG’s teacher education graduates,” Coble says. “They want all the teachers they can get from UNCG. I see the teachers at work, and I’ve talked with people about how pleased they are with UNCG’s teaching graduates. That’s all fact.”

In separate surveys administered by the UNC system and UNCG, UNCG graduates also indicated satisfaction with their preparation. For example, in a 2012 UNCG survey, alumni reported that UNCG taught them multiple strategies to promote student learning, which many said they were able to apply later in their own classrooms.

They also indicated that they had learned to help their students master subject matter, think critically, and, overall, acquire the 21st century knowledge and skills that they will need for college and careers. Similarly, in a survey administered by the UNC system, UNCG graduates agreed that their programs prepared them to plan “relevant and meaningful” instruction that incorporates life skills and 21st century content, and is fully aligned with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study and Common Core State Standards.

Allyson Cates is a recent graduate of the UNCG School of Education. She and a doctoral student in the school launched ISLA, a Saturday school in Chapel Hill for young native Spanish speakers.

“UNCG still stands out to me as an educational institution,” Cates says. “I was prepared to think critically and reflectively while teaching and planning my instruction. I had wonderful team leaders who taught me so many priceless things, such as differentiating, managing and incorporating science in my lessons. Now, I have a love for science that I never knew I had in me.”

Other data show that students entering UNCG teacher preparation programs have strong test scores and GPAs from their first two years of study in their major fields. While UNCG teacher education programs typically require a minimum 2.5 to 2.75 grade point average for admission, applicants actually begin their programs with a significantly higher average GPA of 3.27.

North Carolina is one of a handful of states with a well-developed data base for determining the “value-added” by teachers to student achievement in areas assessed by state End of Grade (EOG) and End of Course (EOC) tests. These data indicate that the students of teachers graduating from preparation programs in the UNC system outperform the students of teachers prepared in other states and in the majority of alternative programs.

Some in North Carolina point to the success of teachers entering through highly selective, alternative preparation programs. However, such programs have not demonstrated the ability to produce more than 1-2 percent of the teachers needed in North Carolina or across the country.

What’s more, Wixson stresses, state data indicate that the majority of teachers prepared through the most effective of these alternative routes do not stay in teaching beyond two years. In contrast, data indicate that a large proportion of teachers prepared in UNC system programs were still teaching after five years in the classroom.

Teacher shortages persist in North Carolina, especially in high-needs areas such as mathematics, science, middle grades and special education. The available data make it clear that the UNCG School of Education and its counterparts across the UNC system are doing a good job preparing effective teachers committed to staying in the profession, Wixson says. Seventy-five percent of students who completed initial licensure programs in elementary, middle grades and special education at UNCG in 2011-12 are now employed by North Carolina school districts.

“While we are constantly working to improve our preparation programs, current data indicate that the UNCG School of Education and its counterparts across the UNC system are doing a good job of preparing effective teachers who are committed to staying in the profession,” Wixson says. “To continue on this path, we need all constituents to work together toward the common goals of student access and success.”

By Michelle Hines