More than any other area of higher education, Schools of Education (SOEs) are intimately connected to the P-12 education system. They must respond not only to the pressures facing higher education as a whole, but also to the pressure to produce high quality teachers for a P-12 system that must improve student outcomes. These pressures are exacerbated by extensive media coverage on teacher shortages and declining program enrollments.

Market and Political Pressures

The teacher shortage is isolated. Only some regions of the country are experiencing shortages or low enrollments. For those with no teacher shortage and high enrollments, there is instead high competition among teacher candidates for open positions. For example, a recent Forbes article reported 24 candidates per open position in Connecticut. In these higher enrollment areas, this competition generally results in higher quality teachers for P-12 schools.

In regions experiencing declining enrollments or teacher shortages, however, SOEs and P-12 schools have the added pressure of working with the teachers they have, high quality or otherwise. With a limited supply of candidates interested in becoming teachers, competition among SOEs for enrollments and among P-12 schools for well trained teachers is fierce. In some cases, schools in shortage areas may hire less qualified teachers, which intensifies the accountability pressures on SOEs.

What Principals Want

To provide SOEs with a fuller picture of the current hiring and professional development priorities of P-12 school leaders, Eduventures conducted a national survey of over 700 principals. When asked about their hiring preferences, the responses from across the country indicated that the single most important factor is a teacher’s ability to handle a classroom (68%). Developing and using instructional strategies (60%) and communicating with all stakeholders (53%) followed closely behind. Principals hire teachers who have the skills to work well with students and stakeholders. Opportunities to interact within the field and practice their craft better prepares teachers with the skills that principals are looking for.

To ensure that teachers are better prepared for the classroom, a popular suggestion that has gained CAEP’s support has been to make the teacher preparation process more like the preparation of doctors: put teacher candidates into classrooms earlier in the process. One Eduventures client, National Louis University (NLU), which has been experiencing enrollment growth, has restructured its teacher preparation program to meet this goal. NLU presented its new model for preparing teachers at a recent Eduventures roundtable.

The model, called the Adaptive Cycles of Teaching (ACT), encourages students to “learn from their teaching.” Rather than focusing on planning lessons before working with students, teacher candidates collaborate with mentor teachers to assess students’ knowledge and then develop lessons that build on what students know. NLU is placing teacher candidates in the classroom well before their official student teaching experience, as it has found the model to be very successful. Through the development of mini-lessons and early entry into classrooms, pre-service teachers are gaining classroom management experience and immediate opportunities to teach the instructional strategies they are learning in their college courses. An upcoming Eduventures report on this roundtable will further discuss how NLU leverages technology to make reflecting on teaching a more efficient process.

With these trends in mind, ask the following questions as you consider your own programs:

  • What are the specific shortages in your region?
  • When are you introducing teacher candidates to the classroom?
  • How are they learning to develop instructional strategies and learn from their own teaching?
  • Are they prepared to collaborate with other teachers? To communicate with parents?
  • How do you know what they are able to do?