Between the 2007-08 and 2015-16 academic years, enrollment in teacher colleges fell by 23 percent (“Enrollment Is Down at Teacher Colleges. So They’re Trying to Change,” Education Week, Aug. 9). According to a survey by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the No. 1 reason is the perception that teaching is an undesirable career.
There was a time when teachers had far more control over what transpired in their classrooms. But pressure to boost test scores, coupled with lack of support, have resulted in a dramatic drop in job satisfaction. This is reflected in lower enrollment in teacher preparation programs. Programs most affected are special education, math, science, foreign language and bilingual education.
Who can blame the best and the brightest from shunning a career in teaching? When all teachers hear is criticism about the job they are doing, they’re bound to feel demoralized. The military has long understood the importance of keeping troop morale high. Higher salaries are a step in the right direction, but better pay is not enough by a long shot. Teachers have never chosen a career in the classroom to become affluent. They want respect and appreciation for the work they do. Until that comes, I expect to see more and more college graduates opting for other careers.
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2 Replies to “Declining teacher college enrollment is no surprise”
The Great Recession may be indirectly responsible for the drop in teacher-college enrollees. When real estate values plummeted, so too did real estate assessments and consequently local real estate taxes. This would have hit school districts — that rely heavily on local real estate taxes — hard financially. The Great Recession also increased state welfare spending while reducing state income tax and sales tax revenue. This would have squeezed state-level $ available to support school systems. As local and state funding for schools stayed flat or even declined, teacher salaries were frozen and class size increased. These developments would have made teaching a less attractive career.
Another major factor may be the impact of charter schools. As a result of the national school reform measures and also as a result of financial pressure on inner-city school systems (charters are usually cheaper per student to fund than neighborhood public schools), charters grew rapidly during the post-2007 period. As students moved from neighborhood public schools to charters, the local school systems needed fewer teachers and charters needed more teachers. But, charters usually pay far less with fewer benefits than neighborhood schools. It follows that many of the entry-level teaching positions were in the charters with relatively low salaries. Another factor discouraging students considering teaching as a career.
A third — and somewhat related factor — has been the growth of programs like Teach for America. Most TFA teachers come from traditional liberal arts colleges rather than from teacher colleges. These TFA teachers took many of the jobs that would have been going to teacher college grads.
No easy answers.
Labor Lawyer: All of the factors you cite are partly responsible, but I think the No. 1 reason is the total lack of respect given to teachers. They are constantly criticized for not doing their job, which is more demanding than ever before. There will always be some teachers who are so dedicated that they are unaffected, but they are declining in numbers. I wouldn’t choose teaching again under the circumstances.