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Teacher-Training Enrollment Surging Upward, Poll Finds

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New Orleans--Preliminary data from a new national survey of teacher-training programs show a startling enrollment upswing, researchers said at a meeting here.

The findings are among the first to confirm what a number of education-school officials have been asserting for some time: that the number of students preparing for initial certification to teach is on the rise after years of decline.

The number of students at four-year colleges preparing to be teachers jumped 13.5 percent between 1985 and 1986, according to the survey of teacher-training institutions.

And although data from colleges and universities with graduate programs has yet to be fully analyzed, enrollments in their teacher-training programs--which produce the majority of the nation's new teachers--appear to have risen at a similar, if not greater, rate, according to a researcher on the survey.

Those enrollments "may be up as much as 20 percent," said Richard I. Arends, chairman of the department of curriculum and instruction at the University of Maryland at College Park. Mr. Arends is analyzing the enrollment data for the six-member research team that conducted the survey.

Between 1985 and 1986, he said, the average number of students enrolled in teacher-preparation programs at four-year colleges rose from 214 to 243.

The enrollment data and other survey findings were made public here at the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

Mr. Arends said a detailed analysis of enrollment trends will be presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research Association in early April.

The survey involved 1986 data gathered from 76 representative institutions over the past year by aacte's committee on research and information. It is the second of what aacte says will be annual surveys of its member institutions. The colleges and universities participating in the survey were randomly selected from three strata of the more than 700 aacte members: those institutions offering only bachelor's degrees, those offering bachelor's and master's degrees, and those also offering doctorates.

In addition to enrollment data, the survey includes information on the demography of teacher-education students, the reforms teacher-training institutions have implemented, and the attitudes of education-school faculty members.

Confirms Anecdotal Evidence

Mr. Arends told the education-school officials here that he was sure his enrollment data "confirm what you already know."

Indeed, most deans of education interviewed here reported that their teacher-training programs had experienced a surge in enrollments over the last several years. Such reports came from deans at institutions in Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Higher salaries, new opportunities for professional development, and available jobs have all enhanced the appeal of teaching in recent years, they said.

"Because of the publicity in the media about the need for teachers and the importance of teaching, students are again seeing it as a viable career," said John S. Oehler, dean of education at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

"The rhetoric that we need well-qualified, able teachers appeals to those who once heard that teachers were not among the best and brightest," he said.

Jewell Gould, director of research for the American Federation of Teachers, said he was not surprised by the enrollment findings.

"I have been expecting this," Mr. Gould said last week. "We saw a teacher shortage on the horizon unless the conditions of teaching changed, and we are now seeing changes in those conditions."

As a consequence, he added, "people are beginning to see teaching as a more attractive profession."

But while the survey produced some good news for educators regarding overall enrollments in teacher-preparation programs, there was bad news as well.

Minority Enrollment Down

Data collected on a representative sample of education students revealed that black and Hispanic representation slipped between 1985 and 1986, from 4.6 percent to 4.3 percent for blacks and from 2.8 per8cent to 1.5 percent for Hispanics, according to Nancy L. Zimpher, associate professor of education at Ohio State University and the member of the research team responsible for compiling the student data.

Over all, Ms. Zimpher reported, the students in teacher-preparation programs are "a culturally insular group."

"Their demography," she said, "is very much as it has been and very much a profile of the white, middle class, largely female population."

The survey of students, she said, found "little commitment to teaching in the urban setting and, incredibly, it has decreased."

Of the 729 students polled in the new survey, the vast majority--more than 80 percent--grew up in a rural or suburban community and want to return to such areas to teach.

Only 15.5 percent of the students grew up in an urban area, down from 17.8 percent in the first survey. And the number reporting a willingness to teach in a "major" urban setel10lting dropped from 15 percent to 9 percent.

More than 70 percent, however, said they had been "adequately" prepared to teach in a culturally diverse setting with "at risk" students.

Still, Ms. Zimpher noted, "one has to juxtapose this with their interest in going to suburban or rural areas where they are not as likely to be faced with cultural diversity."

The students, she said, "want to go back close to home, and teach the people they are most familiar with."

Data on Student Quality

Last year, the survey team used average test-score and grade-point data to argue that students in teacher-preparation programs were of higher quality than previous reports had indicated, even though only a fraction of the institutions surveyed had reported such data.

This year, however, the team declined to make those claims.

"This year, I am far less willing to tell you how wonderful the students look, because of our non-response rate," said Gary Galluzzo, associate professor of teacher education at Western Kentucky University and a member of the research team.

"The data we have on student quality is poor, mediocre, and lousy," Mr. Galluzzo said. If teacher- training institutions want to claim they have high-quality students, he said, they must do a better job of collecting data to prove it.

"A portion of the future success of teacher education is the degree to which it can marshal support across the campus and state," he said. "Data-free suggestions will not con4vince an institution's administrators or state-level policy workers that teacher education is trying to get its house in order."

This year's study asked institutions to report on a five-point scale the degree to which they were addressing 10 "popular" proposals for improving teacher education.

The findings "are instructive," Mr. Galluzzo said, "because they clarify which reforms have already taken hold within the profession, which are presently being considered, and which appear to be the agenda for the future."

The majority of teacher-education programs surveyed have raised their admission and exit standards. More than 70 percent said they had raised admissions standards, and 55 percent said they had raised exit standards in the past several years.

In addition, 52 percent said they had changed the liberal-arts curriculum for prospective teachers, 51 percent said they had used public-school teachers to teach courses, and 49 percent said they had offered scholarships, "special" loans, and other incentives to attract students into their programs.

The survey also asked the colleges and universities to report what changes they were considering for the future.

Nearly half the institutions said they were studying or planning the following: establishing a formal partnership with a school; instituting a five-year teacher-education program at the end of which a student would receive a master's degree and a teaching certificate; and developing a recruitment program to attract better students into teaching.

The research team hopes to have its final report of the survey's findings completed by June.

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