Data serves as an important indicator of success and failure for most institutions. However, for Chapman and the University of North Carolina (UNC), data is everything — they use it to inform decisions when developing programs to improve the quality and retention of public school teachers and leaders throughout the state. “The use of research to guide program improvements has become a fundamental part of our process in preparing high-quality teachers and school leaders for the public schools in North Carolina,” says Chapman.
Under Chapman’s leadership, the 17-institution UNC system recently launched a dashboard to display its data and findings. The UNC Educator Quality Dashboard, released in May 2015, provides a transparent view of research-based outcomes related to teacher and principal quality, supply and demand, licensure and many other workforce measures. “We designed the dashboard to make the data publicly available and allow anyone visiting the site to analyze and display data on these efforts in different ways,” Chapman says. “The data visualization software used to develop the dashboard has a wide range of tools, allowing us to analyze and present the data in interesting ways with customized views. Users can even filter specific elements they would like to look at within the data.”
UNC’s research and its accessibility through the dashboard enable Chapman and others across education sectors in the state to better understand critical education issues, and to illustrate and communicate their meaning and impact to a broader audience. For instance, Chapman recognized a dramatic decline in teacher education program enrollments across the UNC system since 2010 and developed a three-part strategy to address that decline, including setting enrollment growth roles, conducting market research and developing campus-based recruitment plans.
Chapman also helps the state retain educators. In 1987, the modal years of experience for teachers across the nation was approximately 15 — today, the modal years of experience is 1. For teachers in North Carolina, the results are slightly higher at 1.5 years of experience; however, nearly one-third of the state’s teachers are within their first 5 years of teaching. Recognizing the signs of a greening workforce, Chapman collaborated with colleagues across the university and the state’s K-12 public schools to design and launch the North Carolina New Teacher Support Program. “Our research tells us beginning teachers have a tremendous ability for professional growth and improvement, particularly in their first year, if the right kinds of support systems are put in place to help them,” says Chapman.
The program includes support from instructional coaches who model instruction and individualize coaching and support services to meet the specific needs of each beginning teacher based on his or her assigned class and school. Early results from UNC’s research indicate the program is working, with positive impacts beyond teacher retention. “Teachers served by the program are retained at higher rates in the profession in North Carolina, within their district and within their schools. So the program is positively impacting teacher retention,” she says. “But we also see in those early results that teachers served by this program have greater impacts on student achievement at elementary, middle and high school levels — particularly in reading and mathematics at elementary and middle schools. We also find the program is improving teacher quality during the initial years of teaching.”
Chapman has worked closely with the schools of education across the UNC system, public school teachers, administrators and policymakers to improve upon and expand the program. She recognizes the need to engage and communicate along every step of the process. Chapman encourages other universities to leverage data to make impactful changes to education in their state — and to keep their standards high. “We want to ensure the teachers and principals prepared by the University of North Carolina are of the highest quality possible. Our goal and the strategies designed to help us achieve it require continuous improvement.”