Alternet published an article about the dire condition of teachers and teaching in Michigan. Nancy Derringer describes the growing crisis over the future of the profession in a state that treats teachers like Kleenex.
The legislature has hacked away at teacher benefits, and would-be teachers have gotten the message.
The latest data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Title II program, which supports teacher training and professional development, show enrollment in teacher prep at the college level is falling, sharply in some states. In Michigan, 11,099 students were enrolled in the state’s 39 teacher-prep programs in 2014-15, the most recent data available. That is a 3,273-student decline from just two years previous, in 2012-13. Since 2008, the total number of Michigan college students studying to become a teacher is down more than 50 percent.
Michigan State University saw its teacher-prep enrollment fall 45 percent between 2010 and 2014, from 1,659 to 911. Grand Valley State University’s tumbled by 67 percent, from 751 to 248 in the same period. Only the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Central Michigan University saw increases, of 39 percent and 6 percent, respectively.
Whether these numbers portend a coming teacher shortage is unclear. But it does reflect a trend that has been ongoing for some time, said Abbie Groff-Blaszak, director of the Office of Educator Talent with the state Department of Education. Not only are fewer aspiring teachers entering programs, but fewer are completing them, and there’s been a decrease in teaching certificates issued by the DOE.
The combination of Betsy DeVos, Rick Snyder, and Arne Duncan has been deadly for the teaching profession:
The push to improve student test scores, particularly among low-income students, has led to a number of changes that put more accountability on teachers. Groff-Blaszak said the decline in enrollment has tracked with Race to the Top reforms, which in addition to rewarding excellent educators, also provides for the removal of ineffective ones. Such reforms have not been universally embraced, for fear that they are a cover for sapping the power of unions, or holding teachers accountable, via testing, for factors they say they have little control over.
And before they even become teachers, teacher prep students must pass the state’s Professional Readiness Exam, which was toughened in recent years in an effort to raise teaching standards. In 2013-14, its first year, fewer than a third of students attempting it passed on their first try. At Western Michigan University, education students must pass the PRE and maintain a 3.0 average, said Marcia Fetters, the school’s associate dean and director of teacher education.
“When I entered teaching in 1982, there was no GPA requirement,” Fetters said, who described the current PRE, which tests math skills, reading and writing, as “infamous.”
“I don’t know how valid the test is to serve as a predictor of student performance in a teacher-ed program,” said Fetters. “On the one hand, we only want the qualified, but at the same time, if the test itself is not valid? We have had complaints.”
For charter school teachers, the situation is even more dire. They get little or no mentoring or support. Turnover among staff is high. And salaries are lower than in public schools.
Does anyone in Michigan care about educating the next generation of students? Apparently not.
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