Chicago--Preliminary data from a national survey of teacher-training programs document dramatic increases in recent years in the number of students who are coming into teaching after first earning a degree in another field.
According to the survey, the number of students with bachelor’s degrees enrolled in college and university teacher-training programs jumped by more than 200 percent from 1985 to 1988. That increase far outstripped the rise in overall enrollment for those programs, which was only 64 percent over the same period.
“When you look at the data,” said Gary R. Galluzzo, an associate professor of education at Western Kentucky University who took part in the study, “you see that many of these people who already have a baccalaureate degree are also going to school part time, probably at night.”
“They’re people looking for a career change,” he added. “They would probably say things like, ‘I always wanted to to be a teacher, but when I came out of college they told me there were no jobs.”’
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findings are part of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s continuing “Research About Teacher Education Project.” They were made public during the association’s annual meeting here on Feb. 21-24.
The survey is based on data gathered over the past year from 73 representative institutions by aacte’s committee on research and information. The schools include three types of institutions: smaller colleges granting only a bachelor’s degree in education, medium-sized schools offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the field, and large universities with doctoral programs in education.
In addition to enrollment figures, the study provides demographic and attitudinal data gathered from 1,281 teacher-education students and detailed information on the kinds of practical experiences prospective teachers are getting in their training programs.
In the Pipeline
Since its inception in 1984, the rate project has been looked to as a useful barometer, in an era of concern over current or potential teacher shortages, for gauging the number of prospective teachers “in the pipeline.”
In 1988, the new survey found, total enrollment in teacher-training programs increased for the fourth year in a row. The number of teacher-education candidates in those programs was 11 percent higher that year than in 1987.
That percentage appears to represent something of a leveling off, however, after several years of striking growth. Increases in total enrollment in previous survey years “averaged between 15 and 20 percent,” Mr. Galluzzo said.
In comparison, the number of students coming into teacher-training programs after earning an undergraduate degree increased by a slightly larger 14 percent from 1987 to 1988.
“It’s just that teaching is more attractive again,” Mr. Galluzzo said.
He said the growing appeal of the profession may stem from a combination of factors--widespread media reports of teacher shortages, campaigns in the national media to enhance the image of the profession, and reports of efforts across the country to reform education.
“All of these things together probably appeal to a person who is in a job they really don’t like,” he said.
A finding in another part of the survey appeared to bolster Mr. Galluzzo’s assertions that students were coming to teaching from other fields. It showed that the average age of the teacher-education students polled in the survey was 25.7 years--slightly older than the typical college student.
Mr. Galluzzo cautioned, however, that a small percentage of the students referred to in the survey as “post-ba” may actually be in five-year teacher-education programs. Although no data were available in this survey to indicate how many of those students were in extended-year programs, previous surveys have put their number at fewer than 5 percent of the total enrollment.
As in past years, the survey also continued to show that an overwhelming majority of teacher-educa4tion students in 1988 were white females who spoke only one language.
Of the survey sample, which comprised primarily students in their junior and senior years of teacher-education programs, 81 percent were female and 92 percent were white. And 60 percent said they spoke only English, with fewer than 3 percent of those who had studied another language claiming they were fluent.
The researchers said those findings were of “great concern,” since studies show that minority children will make up 30 percent of the country’s school enrollment within this decade.
“There needs to be at least a critical mass of minority teachers,” said Antoine M. Garibaldi, dean of the college of arts and sciences at Xavier University in New Orleans. Mr. Garibaldi, a former chairman of Xavier’s education department, helped analyze the data from the student survey with Nancy G. Zimpher, an associate professor of education at Ohio State University.
“White children need to be exposed to teachers of racial and ethnic backgrounds that are different from their own just as much as black children need role models,” Mr. Garibaldi said.
The teacher-education students surveyed also tended to come from backgrounds of “cultural insularity,” in the words of one researcher. Though information on the students’ geographic origins were not included in this survey, previous surveys have shown that teacher-education candidates are likely to attend college less than 100 miles from the rural and suburban settings where they grew up.
In the new survey, the vast majority of students responding, 80 percent, said they hoped to return to their hometowns to teach. Only 9 percent said they would prefer to teach in urban schools, where the need for their services is most critical.
“That’s aggravated by the fact that even people who come from urban settings don’t want to go back to them,” Ms. Zimpher said. “Everybody thinks we can sort of ‘grow our own’ in urban areas, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll want to stay.”
Not surprisingly, the survey also found that one in five teacher-education students said they were inadequately prepared to teach in culturally mixed settings or classes with “at risk” pupils. Another 35.4 percent said their preparation for such settings was “average,” according to Kenneth R. Howey, a professor of education at Ohio State University who analyzed those data.
In comparison, nearly all of the students--80 percent--said they were generally well prepared to begin teaching.
Mr. Howey said the faculty members polled were even more critical of their students’ readiness for working with disadvantaged and culturally diverse students. More than 31 percent of that group termed their students’ level of preparation for such classrooms “inadequate"; another 45 percent said it was “average.”
One reason for such perceptions of inadequacy, said Richard I. Arends, a professor of education at the University of Maryland who analyzed some of the data, may be that few colleges and universities require their students to gain practical experiences in urban settings with large numbers of disadvantaged students.
He said only 19.7 percent of the institutions surveyed required student teaching in urban schools. Only 5.7 percent mandated student teaching in schools with poor and disadvantaged students.
In contrast, he noted, more than 35 percent of the teacher-education students in a similar study done in 1977 were required to work with students who were members of minority groups.
“In the early 70’s you still had some of that ethos of the 60’s carrying over,” he said. “That was the peak of the Teacher Corps and there were more financial incentives for students to work with minorities.”
In the Field
The quality and the quantity of student teaching and other field experiences encountered by prospective teachers were the focus of the latest survey, which targets a different aspect of teacher education each year.
The survey showed that approximately 70 percent of student teachers are supervised more often by “tenure line” faculty members than by other instructors--a finding that contrasts with some other current studies on teacher education indicating that many such students are overseen by “shadow” or part-time faculty.
A more disturbing finding, however, was that about one in three of the college and university faculty members charged with supervising students in the field do not generally believe they are held in high regard in their institutions for assuming that task.
And, in contrast to the education-reform literature calling for more extensive field experiences, nearly 80 percent of the students polled said they had been allotted “more than adequate” time for student teaching.
Some other highlights of the project findings show that:
Despite the fact that 90 percent of the teacher-training programs surveyed now have computer laboratories, students said they were not ready to teach using computers.
When grades are assigned for student teaching, 95 percent of the students receive A’s and B’s.
Students said they spent 17 hours a week preparing for student teaching.
Despite a widespread belief that teachers are not telling their students to go into the profession, 39 percent of the students said they were encouraged to study teaching by one or more teachers.
The next survey, which will be the final piece of the project, will focus on leadership in teacher-training schools.
A version of this article appeared in the March 07, 1990 edition of Education Week as Teaching Drawing More Candidates From Other Fields