Research has continuously demonstrated that teachers are the most important school-related factor affecting student learning and achievement. However, in North Carolina and across the nation, districts and schools struggle to recruit and retain effective teachers, especially teachers of color. For more than a decade, declining enrollments in educator preparation programs and rises in teacher vacancies and attrition rates, coupled with population growth and increasing demand for teachers, have foreshadowed an impending crisis for the teaching profession. This was a significant challenge even before the COVID-19 pandemic led to unprecedented disruptions in all aspects of K-12 education. Since the pandemic began, reports about growing teacher shortages have been widespread across the country. Yet, there is a need for more comprehensive and up-to-date data on the state of the teaching profession that reflect the current nuances and realities in schools across North Carolina. In an effort to fill this gap, our team analyzed statewide data and conducted a series of focus groups with district superintendents and leaders of educator preparation programs to address the following research questions:

  1. To what extent and in what ways has the state of the teacher pipeline in North Carolina public school systems shifted since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic?
  2. To what extent and in what ways has enrollment in North Carolina Educator Preparation Programs shifted since the COVID-19 pandemic and the temporary waiving of entry and licensure requirements?

The challenges to recruiting and retaining a high-quality, diverse teacher workforce are far reaching and will have significant short- and long-term consequences for students. It is our goal that the findings and the recommendations for policy and practice detailed in this report will lead to action by North Carolina policymakers to restore and strengthen the state’s teacher workforce.