Education Schools' Enrollment Rises For Third Straight Year, Study Shows
Anaheim, Calif--Enrollment in undergraduate teacher-education programs has increased for the third year in a row, according to preliminary data released here during the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
But those gains may be leveling off after a year of striking growth, findings from the national survey of teacher-training programs indicate.
Enrollment in undergraduate teacher-education programs jumped by 20.2 percent between 1985 and 1986, according to the study. But researchers said they expected to find an increase of only about 10 percent between 1986 and 1987.
Gary R. Galluzzo, an associate professor of education at Western Kentucky University who helped analyze the enrollment data for the research team, said the apparent "slowdown" in enrollments could be temporary or a reflection of the institutions that were sampled.
"Nationally, when you talk to folks, everybody's enrollment seems to be up," Mr. Galluzzo said. "It's the rare institution whose enrollment is not up."
He attributed the surge of interest in teaching as a career, in part, to the availability of jobs and increases in teachers' salaries.
But the researchers also found that minority enrollment in undergraduate teacher-education programs has remained relatively stable over the past three years, never exceeding 5 percent of the total.
The enrollment data and other survey findings were made public here earlier this month as part of aacte's "Research About Teacher Education" project.
The new survey is based on data gathered from 77 representative institutions over the past year by aacte's committee on research and information. The enrollment data were drawn from a subset of 38 institutions that have participated in all three years of the survey. They reflect institutional enrollments for the fall semester of 1987.
In addition to enrollment data, the survey includes demographic and attitudinal information gathered from some 1,141 elementary-education students and 253 professors in that field.
The participating colleges and universities were randomly selected from three kinds of institutions: smaller colleges that grant only bachelor's degrees, medium-sized institutions that grant bachelor's and master's degrees, and larger universities that also offer doctorates.
The survey this year focused on the preparation of elementary-school teachers.
Its results indicate that slightly more than three-fourths of the elementary-education students do not have an academic major other than education. And almost the same proportion--72.1 percent--reported that they did not have an academic minor.
The findings appear to corroborate a repeated criticism regarding the preparation of elementary-school teachers: that their training focuses too much on pedagogy and not enough on the academic subjects they will teach.
However, the survey does not provide details on the content of the elementary-education majors.
Antoine M. Garibaldi, chairman of the department of education at Xavier University of Louisiana, said that after several years of discussion on the need to redesign teacher-education programs, "there are still a number of institutions out there that have not changed their degree requirements for teacher education, especially in the elementary-education area."
But Nancy L. Zimpher, an associate professor of education at Ohio State University who analyzed the student data with Mr. Garibaldi, suggested that the findings may reflect "past practices" rather than current trends.
States are moving to ensure that students take more credit hours within academic subjects, she said, but those changes may not have been picked up by the survey. She added that prospective elementary teachers often take as many as 20 semester hours of coursework outside their major in subjects they are likely to teach.
Over three-quarters of the students surveyed said they believed that general studies in the arts, sciences, and humanities were very important for prospective elementary teachers, and 21.4 percent said they were somewhat important.
Those beliefs were particulary widespread among students in four-year colleges. There, 9 out of 10 students rated courses in general studies as very important for future elementary teachers.
The survey also asked faculty members how difficult it is to provide students with a well-rounded liberal education and the needed professional coursework within a four-year undergraduate program.
Approximately 41 percent said it was somewhat difficult; more than 26 percent said it was very difficult.
A 'Parochial' Group
As in previous years, the population preparing to teach was found to be overwhelmingly white and female.
"Both the faculty and the students stand in stark contrast to what the student population is in our schools," said Kenneth R. Howey, a professor of education at Ohio State University and chairman of the committee on reel10lsearch and information.
The preponderance of female students--92 percent--was particularly noticeable this year, researchers said, because of the survey's focus on prospective elementary teachers.
Students in this year's sample were also slightly older on average than those surveyed last year--25 years old versus 24.3 years old.
"The notion that students in higher education are all 18 to 21 years old is obviously passe," said Ms. Zimpher. She also noted that about one-third of the group was married this year, compared with one-fourth in 1987.
More students in this year's survey also reported that the largest share of their financial assistance for college came from family support--approximately 41.3 percent, up from 37 percent in 1987.
Mr. Garibaldi said the increase was interesting in light of the decline in federal financial-aid programs. "I think that's a very critical issue for minority students in particular," he said, especially as college costs continue to climb.
In general, the findings portray what Ms. Zimpher described as a relatively "parochial" student body, with little interest in teaching in urban areas.
Seventy-three percent of the students surveyed attended school less than 100 miles from their home, and said they would like to stay close to their hometown to teach.
Slightly more than half grew up in rural or small towns, compared with approximately one-fifth from urban areas.
More than half of the students said they would like to teach in suburbia, and about one-fourth said they would like to teach in rural areas. Only 19 percent expressed an interest in teaching in urban settings--a finding that has remained relatively constant over time.
Both students and faculty members provided extremely positive ratings for the quality of their professional-preparation programs, with students giving even more positive ratings than faculty members.
Approximately 73.5 percent of faculty members and 80.9 percent of students rated their programs as above average or excellent.
But Mr. Howey, who analyzed the program data, cautioned against placing too much emphasis on these self-reports.
"Typically, what happens in studies of teacher-education students is that perceptions of the quality of their training programs diminish over time, as they get more of a reality base and assume full responsi4bility for teaching," he said.
In addition, a sizable minority of students expressed some apprehension about their ability to teach about computers, handle disciplinary problems, and work with exceptional and high-risk students in culturally diverse settings.
Only one-third of the students polled, and one-fourth of the faculty members, thought that students were more than adequately prepared to teach in culturally diverse settings or to work with "at risk" students.
Three-fifths of the students also reported that they spoke no lan8guage other than English, and only 14.4 percent of those who spoke another language considered themselves fluent in that language.
Positive View of the Future
Researchers said they were heartened, however, by the quality of the students and by their positive view of teaching as a career.
The combined scores of education students on the Scholastic Aptitude Test averaged 898, compared with an average of 906 for all entering freshmen in 1987. Prospective teachers also tended to be in the top third of their graduating high-school class.
"I'm convinced, from three years of data, that people who do train to teach look like the typical entering college freshman," said Mr. Galluzzo, alluding to reports that prospective teachers are not as academically able as their counterparts in other fields.
Education students also reported a very rosy view of their future as teachers:
Almost 95 percent said they were "positive" or "very positive" about teaching as a career, up from 91 percent in 1987.
Ninety-three percent said they planned to teach after graduation, up from 87 percent last year. The majority also planned to remain in teaching for at least 11 years.
Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed felt that teachers' salaries were "adequate" or "more than adequate" to support a single person. But 89 percent felt that they were not adequate to support a family.
When students were asked if they were familiar with the concept of a "career ladder," almost three-fourths responded in the affirmative. And 91 percent said the availability of a career ladder would serve as an incentive to remain in teaching.
Aacte will publish final results from the survey later this year.