Why Saving NCCAT Makes Sense

In difficult budget times, I can honestly say that I don’t envy state legislators who are forced every spring into the uncomfortable position of cutting valuable programs in an effort to save cash.  Trying to decide between protecting programs that support teachers or firefighters or cops or senior citizens or the mentally disabled or the poor — and by default, axing programs that support those same groups — has got to be the worst part of being an elected official.

Here in North Carolina, our legislature is making those difficult decisions right now — and one of the programs up for cutting is called The North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT).

Known as NCCAT for short, the Center was created in 1985 to provide teachers with a place to engage in deep and meaningful studies of their content areas and curricula.

Unlike traditional teacher professional development — which is typically delivered on isolated early release days scattered throughout the school year, NCCAT learning seminars run for an entire week.  Participating teachers from across our state learn together for five straight days — wrestling with ideas formally in structured learning sessions with content experts and informally over meals and in the common areas of residence halls — and often develop supportive professional relationships that last long after they’ve left NCCAT.

Having attended three different NCCAT seminars during the course of my 20 year teaching career, I can tell you that nothing renews a teacher more than having the opportunity to practice reflection, to be intellectually curious, and to share an enthusiasm for learning with like-minded peers for a week.  After each of my NCCAT experiences, I returned to my classroom refreshed and excited and feeling valued and appreciated.  Those feelings have sustained me throughout my career and have helped to keep me in the classroom even as outside organizations have offered me opportunities to leave the profession.

More importantly, though, each of my NCCAT experiences left me professionally challenged — and professionally changed. 

In every case, I understood my content better than ever before simply because I had the chance to wrestle with core concepts as a learner instead of as a teacher.  And in every case, I began to tinker with my instruction, identifying and then polishing ways that I could give my students the same opportunities to understand the content that we were studying.  The intensity of studying deeply for a week — instead of learning occasionally in rushed sessions over the course of a school year — resulted in the kinds of tangible changes in practice that teacher professional development is designed to produce.

I don’t know what NCCAT costs the taxpayers of North Carolina, but I’m ready to argue that it is worth whatever we pay for it. 

If we truly believe that the quality of the teachers that stand in front of our students is the key factor in ensuring success for our schools and our state, then investing in a program that creates a space for teachers to reflect and to learn and to network and to grow just plain makes sense.


  • DoyleNicholson

    Totally agree

    I enjoyed reading your post and have the same sentiment towards NCCAT and its purpose of renewing teachers in mind and spirit.  As you know, the first time I met you was at NCCAT for one of their week long seminars. I came back to work with new ideas and a renewed passion for teaching.  I have also had the pleasure of facilitating some of their National Board candidate support sessions and gained so much in terms of teacher leadership.  I don’t understand why the state would consider taking away a center that has provided so much for the teachers of the state.

    • billferriter

      Sadly, Doyle – They Just Don’t Care!

      Hey Doyle, 

      Sorry to have taken so long to reply!  I’ve been busy times ten this week.  Writing an article for PDK. 

      And sadly, the reason our legislators would hack NCCAT is really pretty simple:  It looks from the outside like some kind of fluffy perk for teachers — like a free vacation to the mountains — instead of like a retention tool or a tool for improving the knowledge and skills of our classroom teachers.  

      Considering how hated our profession is right now — and in the State House, we’re DEFINITELY hated — that makes NCCAT an easy cut.

      On a more personal note, I hope you’re well!  I miss you, that’s for sure — and enjoyed the connection that we made at NCCAT.  I hope those twin daughters of yours are as beautiful as ever.  Must be about 4 or 5 by now, right?

      Anyway — if you want to reconnect, drop me an email:  wferriter at outlook dot com

      Rock right on,