The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) Board voted unanimously to approve a new teaching program for high school students.
The school will be housed at UNC Charlotte's campus in the University School of Education's building. CMS Superintendent Ann Clark thinks this is one way to tackle the shrinking teacher pipeline.
The program is for rising 9th graders who want to be teachers.
"Get them excited about being a teacher and get them on a college campus in the College of Education building, and thinking about being a teacher," Clark said.
Clark said the five-year program is a win-win situation for students. The students will take college courses and learn what it takes to become an effective teacher. The program will put students ahead after they finish college.
"By the time their peers graduating from college, they can have a Master’s degree in reading - in addition to a teaching license," the superintendent said.
Faculty at UNC Charlotte are excited about the program. The College of Education Dean, Dr. Ellen McIntyre, said over the past few years the number of students majoring in education is down by about 22%. Across the UNC system, it's down by about 26%.
McIntyre said the teaching shortage is real.
"It's the biggest concern I have right now," she said. "Yes I am concerned nationally, statewide and here locally."
The dean wants other colleges to partner with school districts to develop an early teaching program. She thinks it will make a difference.
"We can start them right early on working in schools with youngsters so they get really comfortable with kids right away," McIntyre said.
The students will be able to take college courses. They will be paid for and taking care of that expense will help students when finish their college career.
"It's going to reduce their debt dramatically when they start going to college. College will cost them less," McIntyre said.
McIntyre admits the program is risky. There is a lot of investment in the students, who could change their minds about being a teacher. McIntyre believes if that happens, there still can be a return on the investment.
"We also think that because they have been out there in schools that they'll become great citizens around education," the dean said.
Rising 9th graders can start applying for the program in January.