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Higher education and K-12 schools need to establish a close working relationship

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North Carolina proudly advertises some of the best colleges and universities in the country. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for its K-12 public schools. Why is that? States like MA, PA, and NY, homes to a large number of our nation's finest post secondary institutions, are also proud to showcase many of our nation's best elementary, middle, and high schools. This, however, is not true for our state.

North Carolina's educational leaders and policymakers simply do not understand the relationship between the state's K-12 school system and its colleges and universities - a disconnect that generally makes these two institutions operate independently of each other. In part, this explains why our colleges and universities complain that they have to provide their incoming freshmen with remedial instruction in writing, reading, and math. It also explains why so many of our newly graduated teachers are not prepared to work in the public school classrooms.

North Carolina would be well served to establish a clear connection between its K-12 public schools and its colleges and universities. There is no richer resource for research and information about good teaching practices than our local schools. At the same time, our college students can be a rich resource for helping reduce the individual teachers' workloads. Future teachers need experience in the classroom and existing teachers would be more than happy with an assistant. At a time when our state legislators are cutting back in areas such as teacher assistants, college students who want to be future teachers (sophomores and juniors specifically) can fill the gaps while earning college credits and gaining valuable experiences in the elementary and secondary classrooms.

Our state's educators and policy makers have become far too complacent - they need to think out-of-the-box. Not only do we need to get future teachers into the local public school classrooms, our college professors should also take a more active interest in becoming a vital part of the local school systems. This would be a win-win for everyone - local schools would get additional manpower, college students would receive valuable practical experiences, and our public school students would get more one-on-one attention.

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