GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- A new partnership with Guilford County Schools and two local universities is helping train and retain teachers.
High Point University earned a $4 million grant. It's called a Teacher Quality Partnership and it is federal grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education.
P.R.E.P.A.R.E., or Piedmont Triad Residency Educator Program, is partnering up with North Carolina A&T and Guilford County Schools to help recruit and retain highly trained teachers, especially in the STEM fields.
It's a problem across North Carolina, and in the Triad: we need more teachers.
"It was reported in EdWeek that there is a a 23 percent decline in teachers completing teacher preparation programs," Executive Director for Professional Learning and Leadership Tiffany Perkins said.
Perkins said there is an even higher drop of people enrolling in alternative teaching licensure programs. This is a problem that winds up affecting students, because there are not enough highly trained teachers, especially in high needs schools.
"The highest trained teachers make the most quality difference for our students," Perkins said.
The new partnership with High Point University and North Carolina A&T is supposed to help fix that disparity. They are going to teach 25 new teachers to become high school and elementary teachers. High Point University will be focused on STEM in elementary schools, N.C. A&T is focusing on specifically math in high schools.
"We have very distinct needs in our surrounding area and we're really excited to be able to help close the gap," said Loury Floyd, with North Carolina A&T.
Another major focus of the program is retaining teachers.
"Research unfortunately shows that right now we tend to lose teachers in the first one to three years in their careers," said Dr. Mariann Tillery, with High Point University.
It's a problem for Guilford County Schools. They say a big issue is because many of the teachers don't feel supported in their schools. These teachers will have a full year of hands-on training, alongside classes and lectures in specific areas to help them be highly trained and effective teachers. The teachers will also be working alongside mentors in the same high-need schools they will later teach in. They hope this will help them feel better connected in Guilford County before they are even hired.
"We know that having a highly-qualified teacher is the difference towards getting a student ready for college and career readiness," Perkins said.
Qualified candidates already will have a bachelor's degree and need to have a 3.0 GPA. They also need to meet requirements for both High Point University and North Carolina A&T. Guilford County Schools will be helping with the selection process. There are 25 spaces, and the program will be funded for four years. Participants get a stipend that will cover the costs of the program.
The schools are recruiting now and the first class will start in May 2019. Candidates will earn a Master of Arts in teaching in elementary education with a STEM concentration.