SOE News

A letter from the dean

Photo of Bill McDiarmid

Bill McDiarmid

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Dear faculty and staff:

I write to share with you information about reorganization in the School of Education.

As you know, the State of North Carolina faces a significant revenue shortfall. Like other schools and units at Carolina, we have been directed to meet an immediate 5 percent reduction in our permanent state budget for fiscal 2011-2012, which begins July 1. We also expect additional reductions in the University’s state appropriations to result from the General Assembly’s current budget process. Making this challenge even more difficult is the fact that we have already sustained significant cuts in the past two years, and approximately 90 percent of the School’s budget comes from state appropriations.

During the unpleasant task of identifying spending reductions, we have kept in mind the Chancellor’s directive to do all we can to protect the academic core. The School’s faculty were involved in this process, and their input has been essential in identifying the resources that are most critical to our core missions.

The state budget cuts have coincided with a push on campus to make better use of resources, eliminate duplication in faculty support functions, and reduce administrative layers. Called Carolina Counts, this University-wide initiative is based on the key recommendations from the privately funded Bain & Company study in 2009. Carolina Counts serves as a roadmap for carrying out necessary budget reductions with a long-term view. Some of the reorganization described below is an attempt to respond to the goals of Carolina Counts, progress toward which is being closely monitored by the Provost’s office as part of the campus budget-planning process.

Both the need to reduce the budget and to make organizational changes to achieve greater efficiency led to very difficult decisions, some of which we know regrettably affect people’s lives and families. Following are the details.

Academic Program Changes

I appreciate the faculty’s willingness to help us plan for changes to reduce costs in our instructional programs. Framing the decisions we made was the need to make choices that will have the effect of focusing resources on high-need areas in which the School can best serve North Carolina and the nation.

The immediate changes:

  1. In School Psychology, we have suspended admissions to graduate programs and will no longer offer master’s degrees. The Ph.D. program will be reconfigured to align course requirements with those of our other doctoral programs, moving from a 107-hour program to approximately 60 credit hours.

    Students currently in these programs will be provided all the courses and support needed to complete the program they entered.

    This change in no way reflects on the quality of the program. School Psychology has been an excellent program with a superb faculty that is highly regarded by students and very well respected nationally. It is, however, a resource-intensive program, requiring three years to complete the master’s degree and involving many hours of supervised field experiences. The accrediting agency standards, rather than the faculty, determine both the program length and course requirements. Moreover, it is not an area of need identified by the state.

    Steve Knotek is leading the effort to reconfigure the Ph.D. program, aiming to make it more interdisciplinary, maintain its high quality, and retain accreditation.

  2. We will also suspend admissions into the M.Ed. in Early Childhood Intervention and Family Support program for one year. This delay will enable us to align the curriculum with other strands of the M.Ed. for Experienced Teachers program. This will have a temporary enrollment headcount impact, with approximately 25 fewer students enrolled next year.

  3. Beginning in Fall 2012, we will no longer offer the mathematics, science, and music strands of the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) program. Instead, we will be offering secondary licensure in these areas through the UNC BEST (UNC Baccalaureate Education in Science & Teaching) for undergraduate students. We will work to combine these strands with UNC BEST as much as possible for the 2011-12 academic year. This effort should reduce core courses to no more than two sections. As a result, undergraduates will be able to complete a major in their field and meet the certification requirement in four years.

  4. We will accept 30 to 35 fewer students into the undergraduate Elementary Education program. In fall 2010, we enrolled 109 students.

    We recognize that school districts across the state are reporting fewer job openings. In addition, this is a program that requires significant supervision of students’ practica, contributing to its relatively high cost. Finally, while the state needs all the math, science, ESL, and special education teachers that colleges and universities can produce, the need for elementary teachers is dramatically lower.

    At the same time, our Elementary Education program is exceptional – innovative, intellectually demanding, and highly successful. Our graduates regularly score 100 percent on the PRAXIS exam and all find jobs. We are confident that, when circumstances change, we have the capacity to quickly ramp enrollment back up.

Longer-term changes:

  • I have asked area chairs and faculty to redesign any degree programs that currently require more than the minimum number of credit hours (for example, 30 credit hours for an M.A. and an M.Ed.) to conform to the Graduate School’s minimum credit-hour requirement (unless a program’s accrediting organization requires courses beyond the minimum).

  • Depending upon market demand, we may reduce the Masters of Education for Experienced Teachers (M.Ed.X) program strands offered each year to only one section of all core courses. We will more strictly enforce the requirement that M.Ed.X program strands have cohorts of at least 15 students each year to be offered. For example, if the School admits only two strands per year, instead of three, the School can expect an enrollment reduction of approximately 15 students.

LEARN NC

LEARN NC has been a vital resource for educators since it was established in 1997, developing and distributing classroom materials, professional development programs and other support for educators across North Carolina. LEARN NC has established an excellent reputation, with hundreds of educators relying on its resources daily.

In line with Carolina Counts and to achieve greater efficiency, we are combining some functions performed at LEARN NC with similar functions occurring within the School of Education.

We are changing the leadership at LEARN NC to help foster greater collaboration between the LEARN NC staff and the School’s faculty. Cheryl Mason Bolick, Associate Professor of Educational Technology and Social Studies Education, has agreed to become the School’s first Director of Research and Development for Outreach. In addition to engaging our faculty more integrally into the work of LEARN NC, Cheryl will lead efforts to build the research program that is essential to continuously improving the learning opportunities that LEARN NC offers. This is consistent with the School’s Strategic Plan developed last spring that identified programs and activities grounded in a data-driven, continuous improvement model as a core School value. Cheryl will provide direction for LEARN NC, while Ross White will continue to provide its operational oversight.

We also are moving LEARN NC by the end of June to Peabody Hall, to the space previously occupied by the Curriculum Materials Center. By vacating space at the Center for School Leadership Development near the Friday Center, we will save valuable resources. By having LEARN NC physically located within Peabody Hall, I look forward to fuller integration of its activities with those of our faculty.

Regrettably, these changes will come with a reduction in the size of the LEARN NC staff that is unavoidable in the current fiscal situation. We are working closely with the University to ensure that the affected full-time employees receive help from the Office of Human Resources and access to an outplacement service that helps campus employees who face these circumstances.

Conclusion

The flexibility, creativity, and cooperation that have been the hallmarks of the faculty throughout the process of identifying reductions will need to continue as we make decisions about staffing, courses, and programs going forward.

In closing, I wish to thank the faculty and staff, along with our students, alumni, and friends of the School, who advised me on these decisions. I will continue to rely on you all as we implement the changes. As difficult as these changes are, I have every confidence that the School will ultimately be even stronger and that the contributions we make through our teaching, research, and outreach to students, schools, families, and communities will be even greater in the years to come.

Sincerely,

Bill McDiarmid
Dean