This fall, The Learning Policy Institute released a report on teacher supply, demand, and shortages in the U.S., which have been reported across the nation. The report attributes the shortage of teachers to four factors: a decline in teacher preparation enrollments, district efforts to return to pre-recession student-teacher ratios, increasing student enrollment and high teacher attrition.
According to the report, “Between 2009 and 2014, the most recent years of data available, teacher education enrollments dropped from 691,000 to 451,000, a 35 percent reduction. This amounts to a decrease of almost 240,000 professionals on their way to the classroom in the year 2014, as compared to 2009.”
June Hetzel, dean of Biola University’s School of Education, shares her perspective on the shortage, how Biola’s School of Education is preparing teachers for areas that are experiencing and addressing the crisis.
A new report based on data from the Department of Education has found that there is a teacher shortage crisis. Was this expected?
In California, we could certainly have predicted the current teacher shortage. Back in 2008, when the economy crashed and California started increasing class sizes, we experienced teacher layoffs. As teachers got laid off, the community response was to redirect career goals away from education towards other career paths where jobs were waiting. The severe reduction in the number of teachers being credentialed across the state led to the current teacher shortage. Interestingly, while many other universities in California experienced declining enrollment, Biola's School of Education teacher education programs experienced growth.
As Dean of Biola's School of Education, what is your initial reaction to the teacher shortage crisis?
The current teacher shortage alarms me, because the public seems to be unaware how desperately we need to attract outstanding teachers into the profession. Of course, Biola University’s School of Education is addressing the shortage by increasing our communication to spread the awareness of how much we need good teachers in the field. For example, more than 50 percent of our fall 2016 secondary student teachers had a signed contract before they even finished student teaching. Additionally, we are strengthening our communication in marketing and helping potential teaching candidates become aware that they can start an undergraduate credential program with any major and finish as an undergraduate or a graduate. We will work with the student to bring them through the credential program in the most streamlined schedule as possible.
How might the shortage impact students and educators?
Large public school districts, such as Los Angeles Unified, will be the most affected by the teacher shortage. Los Angeles could hire thousands of teachers in 2017. In particular, growing counties in places like the Inland Empire, will need more teachers. Low-income districts always seem to be the most affected by teacher shortages, but we have great leaders in these districts who are working diligently to recruit teachers outside of California.
Current university students who are training for their credential will have a job waiting for them when they complete their degree and credential. It would also be important to note that any major at Biola University can earn a credential, utilizing their elective space, and the School of Education will introduce them to districts who are ready to hire.
Based on your understanding of the crisis, is this a nationwide crisis or only affecting certain areas?
There is a nationwide shortage of highly qualified special education teachers, as well as math and science teachers. Biola recently launched a special education credential (8 courses online, plus student teaching) which can be taken from anywhere in California… additionally, in Fall 2017, we are launching an online M.S. in Special Education. This online program is special because you can fold in the credential courses and work on your Master’s Program. Additionally, you will be placed in a research cohort with a professor where you have the opportunity to research, write, and publish with your professors.
California is experiencing a shortage of teachers in most subject areas as baby boomers are retiring. In the 2016-2017 school year, California needed 22,000 new teachers. We still have needs in many school districts.
According to the report, the shortages are particularly severe in special education, math, science, and bilingual or English-learner education, as well as in locations with lower wages and poorer working conditions. What is Biola doing to prepare students for these unique areas?
When you matriculate through Biola's teacher training program, you will be placed in high performing, low income school districts. In every school district, our Biola students serve in multilingual, multicultural environments, experiencing the rich diversity of the Southern California population. Additionally, Biola students may apply to do half of their student teaching in California and half of their student teaching overseas. This also enriches the breadth and depth of cross-cultural, multilingual contexts. Students who are bilingual and bicultural have specialized skillsets with which to serve our communities.
One of the reports states that enrollment in teacher preparation programs is dropping dramatically. Have you found this to be true?
In some California universities, the enrollments in teacher education have dropped dramatically. Biola's School of Education has not yet experienced this. In fact, I was in a deans meeting in Sacramento a year ago, and I was the only dean in the room who was experiencing growth in their teacher preparation program. The primary reason that I believe this was the case was that Biola has maintained their “blended” teacher education program where students can start their credentials as an undergraduate and complete them or finish as a graduate student. Additionally, professor Lorena Vidaurre launched our Early Childhood Concentration several years ago and this has become a popular concentration in our liberal studies major. When students earn their CTC-approved Early Childhood Permits and their Multiple Subject Credential, along with their degree, they are extremely marketable for transitional kindergarten (TK) classes and as primary grade teachers.
What does this mean for current undergraduate students or prospective students considering a degree in liberal arts education?
Sign up for a credential program with your electives! Or, better yet, sign up for the liberal studies major if you want to teach in elementary education or sign up for the special education program if you want to teach students with special needs. Or, if you like early childhood education, consider our Child Development Permits. We have these programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Your jobs will be waiting for you and you can join the esteemed ranks of thousands of Biola teachers who are already in the field locally and globally, serving in rewarding educational ministry in PreK-12 education.
Any additional comments you may have based on the data or for future teachers?
There are four major socializing influences in our society: the home, the church, the school, and the media. Satan is very busy in these four arenas. Serve as a teacher and enjoy a lifetime of ministry, bringing Christ's light into the classroom every day. I've always said, ‘Teaching is so fun, I can't believe they pay me to do it,’ and it is the most wonderful platform for ministry. For example, I could work in a church and have two hours life-on-life contact on Sundays with the children, or I can work in a school and have 30-40 hours of contact a week with children and their parents. It’s the most rewarding ministry ever!
Find out more about Biola University’s School of Education.
Written by Jenna Loumagne, manager of media relations. For more information, contact Jenna at (562) 777-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.