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Teacher Preparation

Pool of Aspiring Teachers Is Growing Older

By Ann Bradley — October 13, 1999 3 min read

The profile of the typical new teacher has shifted dramatically in the past 15 years as older people have decided to pursue teaching, a survey released last week found.

Almost one-third of the people who completed a teacher-preparation program in 1998 already had bachelor’s degrees, the survey showed. At the same time, the number of people training to be teachers has jumped 49 percent since 1983, to 200,545 new teacher graduates last year.

“I was really amazed, and I am rarely amazed at anything in education,” said C. Emily Feistritzer, the author of the study and the president of the Center for Education Information, a nonprofit research organization based here. “This is a striking difference from 15 years ago.”

For More Information

“The Making of a Teacher: A Report on Teacher Preparation in the U.S.” is available free from the Center for Education Information, 4401A Connecticut Ave. N.W., PMB 212, Washington, DC 20008; (202) 362-3444. On Oct. 18, 1999, the report will be available online at http://www.ncei.com/
MakingTeacher- blts.htm
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Demand has spurred 65 percent of the 665 institutions surveyed to offer at least one program for teacher preparation in which candidates enter with college degrees. About 9 percent, in fact, admit students only at the postbaccalaureate level.

In addition, the survey found an increase in the number of colleges and universities offering initial preparation programs for K-12 teachers, from 1,287 in 1984 to 1,354 this year.

Nontraditional Candidates

The 36-item questionnaire was mailed last spring to each of the institutions; 49 percent returned usable answers. The greatest response rate, at 58 percent, was from large institutions that prepare many teachers.

The responses to some questions were compared with answers to a similar survey Ms. Feistritzer conducted in 1984.

More than half the people admitted to teacher-preparation programs in the last year came from occupations outside education, the survey found. More than a third had teaching-related experience, such as serving as a substitute teacher, teachers’ aide, or paraprofessional.

Those teacher-candidates tended to be older-- around 30--and were more likely to be male than the undergraduates traditionally interested in teaching. They were slightly more likely to be members of minority groups and were likely to be attending college part time.

The average undergraduate teacher-candidate, in contrast, was likely to be a young white female who had recently graduated from high school and was attending college full time.

Gary R. Galluzzo, the dean of the graduate school of education at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., said the findings would help “give us a thermometer” on where teacher education now stands.

At George Mason, which admits candidates only at the postbaccalaureate level, students’ average age is 33.

“We do see a lot of career switchers,” Mr. Galluzzo said.

Matching Supply to Need

The large increase in the number of people pursuing teaching credentials comes as projections indicate that the country will need to hire more than 200,000 teachers a year for the next decade.

While that figure has alarmed some educators and policymakers, Ms. Feistritzer said her findings suggest that the supply of teachers may actually exceed demand.

She cautioned, however, that many institutions are training teachers in areas of the country with few teaching vacancies or in specialties in low demand. And historically, 40 percent of people who earn teaching credentials aren’t teaching the following year.

“The problem is how to get people who want to teach to train in areas where the job demand is the greatest,” she said.

The survey turned up evidence that the persistent criticisms of teacher education programs have been heeded.

Nearly all the institutions responding, for example, said they require candidates to pass a test for admission to a teacher-preparation program. In 1984, only 60 percent had such requirements.

In 1983, the overall grade point average required for entrance into teacher education was 2.29, the report says, but today 51 percent of the schools responding to the survey require a GPA of 2.5 to 2.74.

Programs also are requiring more academic coursework, reflecting concern that teachers don’t know enough about the subjects they teach.

Nearly three-quarters of people preparing to teach graduate from public institutions, the survey found. The institutions with more than 10,000 students produce nearly half of all teachers.

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