College of Education persists against declining national teacher enrollment

EHS Building

The Education and Human Services building on Feb. 1.

Like many universities in the United States, Central Michigan University is seeing a decline in the number of students pursuing degrees in education.

Statistics​ ​show​ ​that​ ​the​ ​number​ ​of​ ​students​ ​who​ ​are​ ​majoring​ ​in​ ​education​ ​have decreased​ ​over​ ​the​ ​years.​ ​A​ ​2016​ ​study​ ​from​ ​the​ ​Learning​ ​Policy​ ​Institute​ ​found​ ​there​ ​was a​ ​35​ ​percent​ ​reduction​ ​of​ ​enrollment​ ​in​ ​undergraduate​ ​teacher​ ​preparation​​ ​since 2009. 

CMU's​ ​College​ ​of​ ​Education​ ​and​ ​Human​ ​Services​ ​is working​ ​hard​ ​to combat the trend and prepare the country's future teachers.​ ​​ 

Between 2012 and 2016, overall undergraduate student enrollment in EHS has fallen from 1,692 to 1,530. Graduate enrollment has seen a similar decline, falling from 273 in 2012 to 173 in 2016.

EHS ​is​ ​not​ ​focusing​ ​on​ ​the​ ​numbers,​ ​but​ ​rather​ ​focusing​ ​on​ ​producing​ ​the​ ​best​ educators​ ​they​ ​can, said Katherine​ ​Dirkin,​ ​chair ​of​ ​the​ ​Teacher​ ​Education​ ​program.

“We’re​ ​looking​ ​at​ ​it​ ​in​ ​terms​ ​of​ ​the​ ​state​ ​needs,​ ​what​ ​our​ ​students​ ​need,”​ Dirkin said.​ ​“It’s about​ ​what’s​ ​the​ ​best​ ​thing​ ​we​ ​can​ ​do​ ​to​ ​prepare​ ​exceptional​ ​teacher​ ​educators.​ ​We​ ​could​ ​fill seats,​ ​but​ ​that’s​ ​not​ ​always​ ​producing​ ​the​ ​best​ ​teacher​ ​educators, and​ ​that’s​ ​our​ ​focus.” 

Dirkin​ ​said​ ​she​ ​is​ ​optimistic​ ​about​ ​the​ ​college’s​ ​direction ​and​ ​the​ ​changes​ ​that​ ​have been​ ​implemented​ ​in​ ​its​ ​innovative​ ​programs. 

Dale​ ​Elizabeth-Pehrsson,​ ​dean​ ​of​ ​the​ ​EHS,​ ​is also optimistic​ ​about​ ​the future. She said​ ​the​ ​EHS​ ​was​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​first​ ​colleges​ ​to​ ​hire​ ​its​ ​own recruiter​ ​for​ ​teacher​ ​education and​​ ​for​ ​the​ ​other​ ​services​ ​in​ ​the​ ​college. 

She​ ​believes​ ​in​ ​the​ ​direction​ ​of​ ​the​ ​college ​and ​that​ ​teaching​ ​is​ ​the​ ​“essential profession.” 

“Teachers​ ​have​ ​to​ ​know​ ​psychology, ​ ​physical​ ​development, ​ ​family​ ​dynamics,​ ​pedagogy, and​ ​be​ ​experts​ ​in​ ​content​ ​overall,”​ ​she​ ​said.​ ​“How​ ​many​ ​professions​ ​do​ ​you​ ​know​ ​that​ ​have​ ​to know​ ​all​ ​that?”

Teachers​ ​are​ ​not​ ​only​ ​important, ​ ​but​ ​absolutely necessary, ​Pehrsson said​.​

Total​ student ​enrollment​ ​in​ ​elementary​ ​and​ ​secondary​ ​schools​ ​is​ ​expected​ ​to​ ​increase​ ​by​ ​2 percent--​ ​to​ ​56.5​ ​million--​ ​between​ ​2013​ ​and​ ​2025,​ ​according​ ​to​ ​projections​ ​by​ ​the​ ​National Center​ ​for​ ​Education​ ​Statistics.​ ​In​ ​21​ ​states,​ ​enrollment​ ​is​ ​projected​ ​to​ ​increase​ ​by​ ​5​ ​percent​ ​or more.

But​ ​where​ ​there​ ​is​ ​an​ ​increase​ ​of​ ​incoming​ ​students,​ ​there​ ​is​ ​a​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​incoming teachers.​ 

Nationally,​ ​the​ ​2016​ ​median​ ​annual​ ​wages​ ​for​ ​high​ ​school​ ​teachers​ ​was​ ​$58,030, according​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Bureau​ ​of​ ​Labor​ ​Statistics.​ ​In​ ​addition​ ​to​ ​working​ ​regular​ ​school​ ​hours, teachers​ ​put​ ​in​ ​extra​ ​time​ ​grading​ ​homework,​ ​planning​ ​curriculum,​ ​meeting​ ​with​ ​parents​ ​and engaging​ ​with​ ​extracurricular​ ​activities. 

Owosso​ ​sophomore​ ​Kyle​ ​Wendling,​ ​a​ ​music​ ​education​ ​major​,​ ​recalled​ ​how money​ ​can​ ​be​ ​a​ ​difficult​ ​part​ ​of​ ​deciding​ ​to​ ​pursue​ ​education.​ ​

“It’s​ ​difficult​ ​to​ ​get​ ​through​ ​college as​ ​a​ ​music​ ​education​ ​major. ​The​ ​payoff ​sometimes​ ​isn’t​ ​what people​ ​need​ ​considering​ ​the​ ​amount​ ​of​ ​work​ ​we​ ​put​ ​in," Wendling said. ​"As​ ​music​ ​majors,​ ​we​ ​have​ ​to​ ​buy​ ​our own​ ​instruments​ ​and​ ​stuff,​ ​and​ ​that’s​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​money​ ​on​ ​top​ ​of​ ​tuition​ ​and​ ​everything.​ ​The eventual​ ​salary​ ​just​ ​isn’t​ ​enough​ ​for​ ​some​ ​people.”

For students like Union​ ​City​ ​junior​ ​April​ ​Inman​, even disincentives salaries aren't enough to stifle her passion for education. Inman cites​ her fourth grade teacher Marcie Mead as​ ​her inspiration​ ​to​ ​pursue​ ​an​ elementary education​ ​major. 

"(Mrs. Mead) ​helped​ ​me​ ​to​ ​discover​ ​I​ ​had​ ​a learning​ ​disability​ ​that​ ​know​ ​one​ ​else​ ​knew​ ​about,​ ​and​ ​she​ ​got​ ​me​ ​help​ ​with​ ​that​ ​so​ ​I​ ​was​ ​able​ ​to overcome​ ​it," Inman said.​ "​I​ ​want​ ​there​ ​to​ ​be​ ​more​ ​teachers​ ​who​ ​are​ ​attentive​ ​of​ ​kids​ ​who​ ​aren’t​ ​doing​ ​as​ ​well as​ ​everybody​ ​else.”

Along​ ​with​ ​salary,​ ​there​ ​are​ ​other​ ​factors​ ​that​ ​have​ hindered education majors. 

In​ ​2013,​ ​many​ ​students​ ​were​ ​discouraged​ ​from​ ​beginning​ ​a​ ​pathway​ ​to​ ​teaching​ ​when the​ ​Professional​ ​Readiness​ ​Exam​ ​was​ ​implemented​ ​as​ ​the​ ​basic​ ​certification​ ​test​ ​for​ ​aspiring teachers.​ ​This​ ​test,​ ​which​ ​was​ ​considered​ ​much​ ​more​ ​difficult​ ​than​ ​the​ ​previous​ ​Basic​ ​Skills test,​​ ​had​ only ​a​ ​20 percent​ ​pass​ ​rate​ ​for​ those​ ​who​ ​took​ ​it.​ ​The​ ​pass​-rate​ ​under​ ​the​ ​Basic​ ​Skills test​ ​was​ ​82 percent. 

The 26​ ​colleges​ ​involved​ ​with​ ​the​ ​PRE​ argued ​ ​the ​difficulty​ might ​deter​ ​students​ ​from​ ​pursuing​ ​education​ ​degrees.​ ​The colleges​ ​submitted​ ​a​ ​study​ ​to​ ​the Michigan​ ​Department​ ​of​ ​Education,​ ​in​ ​which​ ​they​ ​outlined​ ​the​ ​results​ ​they​ ​saw​ ​and​ ​why​ ​they thought​ ​the​ ​PRE​ ​prevented ​students​ ​from​ ​becoming​ ​teachers. 

​In​ ​February​ ​2017,​ ​the MDE​ ​ruled​ ​to​ ​phase​ ​out​ ​the​ ​PRE. 

As​ ​of​ ​Oct.​ ​1,​ ​the​ ​PRE​ ​was​ ​no​ ​longer​ ​available​ ​as​ ​an​ ​option​ ​for​ ​fulfilling​ ​the basic​ ​skills​ ​examination​ ​for​ ​student​ ​teaching​ ​in​ ​Michigan.​ ​Students​ ​in​ ​Michigan​ ​may​ ​now​ ​use SAT​ ​scores​ ​as​ ​their​ ​teaching​ ​certification. 


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