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Studies Find Supply, Quality Of Future Teachers Is Promising

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Enough young people might be interested in the teaching profession to meet the demand for the next several decades, and the academic standing of students who enter teacher-preparation programs is as strong as that of other college students, two separate studies have concluded.

The conclusions of the reports appear to contradict assumptions about the status of the current and future teaching forces contained in many of the recent reports about education. The National Commission on Excellence in Education, for example, concluded that "not enough of the academically able students are being attracted to teaching."

A survey of 5,000 students at 21 high schools in six states, sponsored by Texas Christian University, found that 9 percent of all college-bound seniors were "very interested" and 26 percent were "somewhat interested" in pursuing a career as a teacher.

Another survey, conducted at six colleges in Pennsylvania, suggests that education majors are as academically able as most of their college peers--a finding that contradicts the low rating given them by many educators on the basis of Scholastic Aptitude Test scores.

The reading and study skills of the 491 education students involved in the survey are near or above the norms of all college students nationwide, according to the Pennsylvania researchers. The authors of the report say the colleges in the survey were roughly representative of all colleges in the state.

'Aggressive Recruiting'

John N. Mangieri, the dean of the school of education at Texas Christian University and the co-author of the report on high-school students' career aspirations, said that teacher-training institutions should take advantage of the large pool of people expressing an interest in the profession by "aggressively recruiting" prospective teachers and by pressing for substantial salary increases for teachers. He said education schools should model their recruiting efforts after efforts in recent years to attract black engineering students, which have dramatically increased the proportion of such students.

The teacher-training programs most likely to be successful in attracting these students, the research suggests, are those that emphasize subject matter rather than methodology and provide early clinical experience.

About 10 percent of college students will have to prepare for careers in education if the demand for teachers is to be met in the coming years, according to Phillip C. Schlecte, professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Mr. Mangieri cautioned that schools might have staffing problems even if most of those interested in education pursue teaching. He noted that 13 percent of all young women in the survey indicated "great" interest in teaching, compared with 5 percent of all young men. Conversations with students in some of the schools, Mr. Mangieri said, showed that most of the young women were interested in teaching at the elementary-school level--a factor that could leave the elementary schools overstaffed and secondary schools understaffed.

The extent to which an early interest in teaching results in a student's decision to pursue the profession, the report suggests, depends on the students' perception of the relevance of professional training programs and the prospects for professional advancement.

Seventy-six percent of the students who expressed an interest in teaching said a major factor in their interest was their "knowledge and skill in a subject," and 68 percent said a major factor was their "interest" in the academic subject.

The factors that were found to be relatively unimportant included prestige and recognition, working conditions, and the influence of a relative or friend who is a teacher. No more than 34 percent of the sample group rated any of these factors as "very important."

Such findings suggest that "teacher-preparation programs that emphasize a strong content major and early field-based experience should be effective in attracting and retaining selected groups of students," the report said.

Some educators have claimed during the debate over education re-form that education schools are detached from the everyday operation of schools. (See Education Week, Feb. 15, 1984.)

Reading Skills Measured

In the Pennsylvania study, 491 students admitted to education programs at six colleges last fall performed slightly above the national norm on the Nelson-Denney Reading Test. The students' reading skills were measured to be on the level of students in the middle of their second year in college.

Some 22 percent of the education students scored "above the limits of the test"--the level of a person almost one year after graduation from a four-year college.

The students scored above the national average on tests of study habits and attitudes. The students at the six colleges scored an average of between 128 and 147 on a scale of 200 on a the Brown-Holtzman Survey of Study Habits and Attitudes. The national average is 114.

The study was conducted at Pennsylvania State University, St. Francis College, Millersville University, the University of Pittsburgh, Marywood College, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

The authors of the report--Mary M. Dupuis of Pennsylvania State, Anne Mallery of Millersville, and Dee Wallace of St. Francis--say they will continue the study this spring and eventually expand it to include assessment of mathematical skills.

The survey of high-school students was supported by the Research Fund at Texas Christian University. It was conducted last fall by Mr. Mangieri and Richard E. Kemper, associate professor of education at the University of South Carolina.

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