What can teacher colleges do to turn around declining interest in the profession?
- A report released last week by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education reveals that between the 2007-08 and 2015-16 academic years, 23% fewer people completed teacher-prep programs — and colleges are taking steps to reinvent their programs to address this challenge, Education Week reports.
- Some colleges are adjusting their curriculum to better prepare teachers by placing a greater emphasis on pedagogy, focusing on multicultural education in preparation for more diverse classrooms, developing a stronger community focus, and shifting away from standardized testing toward more performance-based assessments approach.
- Another issue the report noted is that 21% of aspiring teachers are choosing elementary education as their field, compared to 8% in early childhood education, 3% in middle school education, 7% in secondary education, and 9% in special education. Specific subjects, such as math and science, attracted even fewer applicants, creating a situation where there are shortages in many areas and an overabundance of elementary school teachers overall.
With all the stories about teacher protests, low pay for teachers, school shootings, and lack of teacher respect, it is little wonder that fewer people are being drawn to the profession. According to a recent survey cited in the report by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, deans of colleges of education said the main reason for the drop in enrollment was the perception of teaching as an undesirable career. And the constant barrage of comments and protests by teachers has only added to this perception.
As fewer students choose the profession, schools are scrambling to fill positions, a situation that can only hurt students in the long run. Some schools are offering extra cash incentives to entice teachers to fill high-demand posts while others are pulling teachers out of retirement to meet the crisis. At the state level, some are responding to protests by improving teacher pay while others are easing the requirements for switching to the profession.
School administrators may feel the issue is out of their hands. However, they may be in the best position to solve the issue by encouraging bright students to enter the profession. Schools are in a perfect position to provide internships for these students. And by treating the teachers in their own district with respect, they can help elevate the status of the profession.
Steve Kappler, an executive at ACT, noted this in an address at the 2015 Education Writer’s Association National Seminar. “The earlier you get to them the better,” Kappler said. “What can we do with these students to better utilize their high school education time to generate interest in the teaching profession? Perceptions get shared early so the more conversation we can have with high school students, the easier it’ll be to keep the teaching pipeline full.”