Shortage of teachers due to declining enrollment in educational programs
As the new school year begins, a nationwide teacher shortage disrupts the K-12 school district and lengthens job postings. The president of the National Education Association has called classroom teacher shortages “five crises.” Some students are returning to full-time, face-to-face learning, often hundreds of miles away, just to find an instructor teaching through a screen. Many teachers are overloaded with large classes, sometimes teaching without a degree. Some school districts begin the school year with a four-day week to accommodate staff shortages.
The flow of new teachers through the pipeline is slowly slowing, partly due to year-over-year declines in enrollment in educational programs. Higher education institutions are now looking for ways to reverse what has become an alarming national trend.
Between 2008 and 2019, the number of students completing traditional teacher education programs in the United States fell by more than a third, according to a 2022 report by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. Degree programs in areas with the greatest need for instructors, such as bilingual education, science, mathematics and special education, saw the steepest declines, according to the report.
Jacqueline King, a research, policy and advocacy consultant at AACTE and co-author of the report, said teacher shortages and declining enrollment in educational programs “are certainly correlated.” Both go hand in hand with the declining value of teaching as a profession, epitomized by decades of stagnant wages, onerous workloads and political demonization, she added.
“Teachers’ wages are completely flat and the gap between them and other college-educated workers is widening,” she said. “This has long contributed to a decline in interest in education as a field, both in degree program admissions and employment.”
In some states, the decline in enrollment in traditional teacher programs is well above the national average of 35%. According to a 2019 report by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, from 2010 to 2018, participation in education programs fell by 60% in Illinois, nearly 70% in Michigan, and 80% in Oklahoma. did.
Brian Duke, interim dean of the College of Education Specialties at the University of Central Oklahoma, believes the CAP report is exaggerated, but his statewide institution has seen enrollments drop significantly. He said he acknowledged that it contributed to the current situation. Lack of teachers. As of June, more than 3,500 of her teaching positions in the state are vacant, according to the Oklahoma State Education Association. In January, Oklahoma City University phased out early childhood and primary education programs due to low enrollment.
“When people think about what they will study, they have in mind the end goal of what the workforce will be like, and our school conditions are becoming unattractive to most young students. “When I started my career 32 years ago, there were 50, 60, 100 applications for every position in metropolitan schools. is that the school has posted a job opening and there are no applicants.”
More Incentives, Fewer Barriers
To address this problem, university education and teacher training programs are experimenting with different initiatives, often simultaneously.
The program offers a rapid degree pathway for associate professionals already working in schools, scholarships and scholarships to enhance student-teacher compensation, and school district and Investing in stronger partnerships with community colleges.
The College of Education at the University of Central Oklahoma is trying all these avenues to attract students. By increasing outreach to non-traditional students and offering more scholarships, the state is slowly building interest among prospective teachers, Duke said. There is a long way to go to recover the numbers before the setback.
“We are seeing results,” he said. “But this is really sad. We now need to measure our success by easing the decline, not the curve of growth.”
State policymakers are also looking for ways to lower the barriers for students seeking admission to educational programs and qualifying for licensure after graduation. In May, Oklahoma abolished the General Proficiency Test for teacher candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a subject. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said in June that he would abolish the requirement that teaching applicants pass his Praxis, a pre-vocational proficiency test previously required for licensure. signed the law. A similar bill passed the New Jersey legislature this summer and is awaiting the governor’s signature.
Proponents of these measures argue that standardized tests such as Praxis, which test proficiency in a variety of subjects, including mathematics and English, challenge unnecessary barriers to entering educational programs and obtaining teaching licenses. It says there is
The exam can be particularly daunting for candidates of color. According to a 2019 report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, 43% of test takers of color passed the exam on their first attempt, compared with 58% of white test takers, We found that 30% of test takers did not retake the test after failing it. first time.
Mark McDermott, associate dean of teacher education and student services at the University of Iowa School of Education, aims to make it easier for students to complete their degrees while making sure graduates are ready to enter the classroom. said there is.
“It is important to recognize the barriers and minimize them as much as possible. “We’re not just preparing teachers to become licensed. We’re preparing them to retain and continue teaching in the long term.”
Mr King said that while the exit exam may be unduly burdensome for applicants, some sort of licensure exam is necessary to ensure that applicants are ready to enter the classroom. rice field. However, she added, the case where an entrance exam wins admission to an educational program is less clear-cut.
“Given this shortage, why set up additional hurdles for students to enter teacher training programs?” she said.
“Fill the leaky bucket”
Education program leaders are even more concerned by state officials desperately trying to fill other solutions being pursued outside of higher education, particularly teacher vacancies. Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans to allow veterans without a college degree to teach in public schools. Also, new Arizona law qualifies current undergraduates to become elementary school classroom teachers.
Christopher Koch, president and CEO of the Educator Preparatory Accreditation Council, said these measures show a widespread disrespect for education, whether they fall short or not.
“I don’t know why we’re so happy about the lack of teachers, but not the shortage of medical and other professions,” he said. It sends the wrong message about a profession that says it’s one and that it’s everything on the other.”
Henry Tran, co-author how did we get heredecline of the teaching profession (Information Age Publishing, 2022) states that downplaying the difficulty and importance of teaching is the true heart of today’s education deficit. The problem is deeper than any higher education solution can reach.
“At both macro and micro levels, there is a general feeling of neglect of the profession that drives people out of the profession and acts as a barrier to entry,” says Educational Leadership and Policy. Tran, who is also a professor at at the University of South Carolina.
That disrespectful feeling has material roots. Education has long had a “wage penalty” compared to occupations that require a similar level of education. A new report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that inflation-adjusted average weekly wages for teachers have increased by just $29 since 1996. By comparison, other college graduates gained an average of $445 per week over the same period. Low wages and high stress have led to a resurgence of labor organizing and strife among teachers, including planned strikes in large neighborhoods such as Columbus, Ohio and Philadelphia.
Mr. Tran said many of the proposed higher education solutions to the teacher shortage, especially lowering the licensing threshold as in Iowa, are a “first aid” that cannot produce a resilient teacher force. “I’m afraid it’s nothing more than that.”
“90% of the teacher shortage demand is due to turnover. What is it that keeps them from leaving?” he said. “Essentially, you have a leaky bucket that you’re constantly trying to fill. At some point, you run out of water to fill the bucket.”
Mr. King agreed that retention is the main cause of teacher shortages. She said that even if teacher education programs were successful in increasing enrollment, they would be inadequate unless wages and working conditions were improved.
“We’re not just adopting a way out of this problem,” she said. “It has to be a two-pronged approach.”