The Journal Gazette
Sunday, December 29, 2019 1:00 am

Schools fight trend to prepare new teachers

Trine, PFW and FWCS act amid enrollment drop

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

When prospective education majors visit Trine University, Tony Kline has much to brag about.

As dean of the Franks School of Education, Kline is proud of the program's 100% job placement rate in recent years, its average class size of 13 students, its redesigned classrooms and its ability to let students earn multiple teaching licenses within four years.

Enrollment in teacher preparation programs is declining nationwide, but the Angola university is seeing the reverse. The number of its education majors has increased 92% over the past four years, growing from 82 students in 2016 to 158 students this fall.

“When we're recruiting, it's really a team effort,” Kline said in a recent interview.

Indiana hit hard

Enrollment in teacher preparation programs has dropped more than 33% nationwide since 2010, and Indiana has been affected more than most, according to a report this month from the Center for American Progress.

The nine states where enrollments dropped at least 50% include Indiana, 54%, and neighboring Michigan and Illinois, 67% and 60%, respectively, the nonpartisan policy institute found.

The report, “What to Make of Declining Enrollment in Teacher Preparation Programs,” examined federal data from 2010 to 2018, including the number of students who completed such training. That figure dropped 28% in that period.

The trend is worrisome for Fort Wayne Community Schools, the state's largest school district. It serves nearly 30,000 students.

“We're still seeing that lower number of graduates, so that's still a concern, that there's not as many people going into teaching, not as many graduating with teacher licenses,” FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.

Building pipeline

FWCS is building on an existing partnership with Purdue University Fort Wayne to get student teachers in the district, which could lead to permanent employment, Stockman said.

“The difference between this partnership and other universities is we are developing a streamlined system where each entity is clear on the expectations and responsibilities for all involved,” Stockman said.

“Each university currently has its own expectations and paperwork that goes along with student teaching, and recruiting those new teachers through the universities may not look the same.”

More than 10% of Purdue Fort Wayne's 10,200 students are studying to become educators, according to the university.

Trine in recent years has held the Teacher by Trine education summit for high school students interested in or wanting to learn about careers in education. Sessions have addressed such topics as classroom management, educational technology and student diversity.

It's part of an effort to be more strategic with high school juniors and seniors, Kline said.

FWCS isn't entirely relying on colleges to recruit the next generation of educators.

“We even start with our students,” Stockman said.

The district fosters students' interest in the profession by offering cadet teacher programs at some high schools, Stockman said, and the FWCS Career Academy offers opportunities in early childhood education.

“We want them to come back and teach for us,” Stockman said.

That makes sense. The Center for American Progress described teacher labor markets as hyperlocal. Most educators choose to work within 15 miles of their hometowns, it reported.

Raising standards

Trine isn't seeking just any student for the Franks School of Education. It wants high-quality students, Kline said. He said the school raised GPA expectations a few years ago for those pursuing what is a difficult profession. It was raised from 2.5 to 3.0 at two important points: for entry into the school and for graduation.

“It's not something you do just because you like kids,” Kline said. “We raised expectations hoping to grow the program over the long run.”

The Franks School of Education has averaged about 54 new undergrads for the past three years, Kline said.

Students visit elementary, middle and high school classrooms during their first year. This helps aspiring teachers affirm their career choice and decide which grade level they want to teach, Kline said. Students will get experience in a variety of classrooms, he added, noting they will work with different grade levels and children of different racial backgrounds, income levels and languages.

To better attract students, Trine has made it possible for students to graduate with multiple teaching licenses, Kline said. For example, he said, a graduate might be licensed to teach both math and English.

Students may also earn certification in Google Classroom and Project Lead the Way programs for STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – education, he said.

“That just makes them a really great value,” Kline said.

Purdue Fort Wayne has also made a change with its secondary education majors. They now earn a bachelor's degree in the subject they will be teaching in addition to a bachelor's degree in secondary education, said Isabel Nunez, School of Education director.

The change seems to have paid off. Purdue Fort Wayne is preparing 66 more future high school teachers now than two years ago, before it started the dual degree program, Nunez said by email. Enrollment increased from 151 in fall 2017 to 217 this semester.

“This is an exciting innovation that we are very proud of, as it gives our future high school (teacher) students more credentials and options for their careers,” Nunez said.

A $250,000 donation from Trine alumnus Tomas Furth supported upgrades in education classrooms and innovative training for faculty. Kline described the gift as affirmation for the school.

Many studying education at Trine pursue the profession because they want to build relationships with students and seek to emulate teachers who positively influenced their lives, Kline said.

“We want to prepare teachers to be them,” he said.

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