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December 10, 2019 7 min read

Teacher-Prep Programs: Are They Becoming a Vanishing Breed?

Teachers take a lot of hits: They’re blamed for low student-test scores. They’re paid far less than other professionals. The list goes on. So, why would anyone want to be a teacher anymore?

Apparently, many don’t, judging by a new report showing enrollment in teacher-preparation programs has dropped by a third in just eight years, 2010 to 2018.

In analyzing federal data, the Center for American Progress found that nearly every state has experienced enrollment declines, with some seeing drops of more than 50 percent. At the same time, the number of black and Hispanic teacher-candidates enrolled in teacher prep nationwide fell by a quarter.

One bright spot: The number of students who completed programs that prepared them to teach bilingual education and English-as-a-second language increased by nearly 30 percent. Most other subject areas saw declines: special education, 14 percent; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, 22 percent; and elementary education, 29 percent.

Only Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Utah, and Washington saw growth in teacher-prep enrollment.

Enrollment, however, dropped by 50 percent or more in Oklahoma—where there’s been major teacher turmoil—Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Rhode Island.

Differences in enrollment trends show up among types of programs, too. Traditional teacher-prep programs, which prepare the bulk of the nation’s teachers, experienced the largest decline, 43 percent. Alternative programs run by a postsecondary institution saw a 19 percent drop, but alternative-certification programs not run by a college or university, such as Texas Teachers of Tomorrow, saw a 42 percent increase.

Darker days may be ahead. “There’s a little bit of talk these days that we’re potentially entering an economic slowdown,” said Lisette Partelow, CAP’s senior director of K-12 strategic initiatives and the report’s author. “We know that enrollment in teacher preparation tends to decline when there’s a recession. ... It’s possible we’re poised for even more of a significant drop if that same trend holds true.”

Five Ways to Get Parents Who Don’t Speak English Involved in Schooling

Who’s more likely to go to parent-teacher conferences and other school events? English-speakers or those who don’t speak the language? Not much of a wager, is it?

A new U.S. Department of Education fact sheet offers advice to change the odds.

School connection is important, so says the research, because children whose parents are involved in supporting their learning do better.

Here are five ways to help schools better connect with English-learner families:

Promote Home-School Connections: A principal in San Jose, Calif., used baked goods, weekly chats, and an open library policy to forge relationships.

Extend Aid to Students’ Families: A Center for American Progress report highlights how the Oakland, Calif., schools prioritized family engagement to help parents become better advocates for their children.

Use Native Languages as Aids: The Education Commission of the States recommends that states and districts provide materials in the native languages of students and parents and offer adult ELL community education classes to help bridge language gaps.

Look to the Federal Government’s Toolkit: A resource from the U.S. Department of Education offers guidance on how to enroll children in school and looks at how U.S. schools may differ from those in other countries. (See: ncela.ed.gov)

View a Video of One Parent’s Campaign: Teresa Garcia struggled to communicate with her children’s teachers, to help her children with homework, and to understand the notes that came home in their backpacks. Garcia set out on a campaign to ensure that other English-learner families in the Federal Way, Wash., schools did not feel as hopeless as she once did.

Kids Across the Globe Share Characteristic of Physical Inactivity

All along, Americans have been under the impression that our children are sedentary, leading to obesity and all its related ailments. We can now take heart that we are not alone.

Around the globe, from the United States to Australia to countries in between, kids ages 11-17 aren’t getting enough activity, says an analysis from the World Health Organization.

The analysis looks at data from 146 countries between 2001 and 2016.

“Consistent with available evidence, our data show that levels of insufficient activity among adolescents continue to be extremely high, compromising their current and future health,” the report says.

There’s no gender gap here. According to WHO, 78 percent of girls aren’t getting enough physical activity, same for boys.

Although there is no clear answer to low physical-activity levels, one explanation is that schools prioritize academic performance over physical fitness.

In the United States, for instance, a push to institute mandatory recess in Georgia schools ended with a veto from Gov. Brian Kemp. “This legislation would impose unreasonable burdens on educational leaders without meaningful justification,” he said of the bill.

Habits formed in childhood, however, can carry on into adulthood. “They have better cognitive function, easier learning, they have better pro-social behavior,” the WHO’s Dr. Regina Guthold told the BBC. “Active adolescents are likely to be active adults.”

Calif. University Leaders in Favor of Dumping SAT, ACT

SAT and ACT opponents can check off two more influential supporters who want to dump the tests.

University of California, Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ, along with the university system’s chief academic officer, Provost Michael Brown, say that research has convinced them that performance on the tests is so strongly influenced by family income, parents’ education, and race that using them for college admissions decisions is unfair.

“They really contribute to the inequities of our system,” Christ said last month at a forum on college admissions.

Christ’s and Brown’s announcements came as the UC and California State University systems reassess the use of standardized tests and dozens of universities move away from relying on them. They also come at a time when several students and community groups have threatened to sue the UC system, alleging racial bias, if it continues to use the tests.

In the past year, nearly 50 schools have made SAT and ACT scores optional, joining about 1,000 others that already made the change, according to FairTest, a group that opposes testing requirements.

Test providers aren’t happy about such sentiments or actions. Jessica Howell, the vice president of research with the College Board, which owns the SAT, told the forum the standardized tests merely reflect underlying social and educational inequities.

She noted that the organization has a tool to help colleges place scores in the proper context.

“We shouldn’t stop using them because we don’t like what we see,” Howell said.

Chocolate Milk Making a Comeback to School Cafeterias

Like many foods—real butter, anyone?—chocolate milk’s fortunes have risen and fallen over time.

Citing concerns over childhood obesity, some districts—from the District of Columbia in 2010 to Tempe, Ariz., just this school year—have taken the often controversial step of banning chocolate and other flavored milk from their schools.

But some districts are reintroducing chocolate milk. The New Haven, Conn., school board voted recently to reverse the district’s 2011 ban on chocolate milk—on a twice-a-week pilot basis. At the beginning of this school year, the Mount Vernon district in Washington state put chocolate milk back on the menu five days a week after 12 years of Friday-only offerings. And Los Angeles Unified opted to pull back its prohibition in 2016.

One big concern is that when plain milk is the only option, kids don’t drink it and miss out on an important source of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D and calcium.

The other issue is waste. In the words of the Los Angeles Times, schools there were tossing out an “obscene” amount of food, much of it plain milk.

This tug of war over chocolate milk has been happening at the federal level, too. In 2012, the Obama administration rolled out stricter rules for federally subsidized school meals, including that all flavored milk had to be fat-free. The Trump administration reversed that last year.

The School Nutrition Association, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all support offering chocolate milk in schools because flavoring, at least, is a useful way to get students to drink enough milk.

But not all pediatricians and health experts are on board with this lesser-of-two-evils reasoning, saying that avoiding sugary drinks is the best way to prevent childhood obesity.

Just as chocolate milk doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, neither does the debate: New York City is mulling banning the drink from its schools.

Briefly Stated Contributors: Associated Press, Corey Mitchell, Arianna Prothero, Tribune News Service, and Madeline Will. Edited by Karen Diegmueller
A version of this article appeared in the December 11, 2019 edition of Education Week as Briefly Stated

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