Cook: Why prospective teachers shy away from field

By cori

When it comes to teachers, parents want the best and the brightest teachers standing in the front of their child’s classroom.

Historically, Michigan public schools have been among the best in the nation. But outstanding public schools are the result of outstanding public school teachers. The vast majority of those highly skilled teachers are products of the colleges of education here in Michigan.

In the last four years, enrollment in teacher training programs has dropped by nearly 40 percent. This precipitous decline can be traced to a number of factors. Attacks on the teaching profession have not helped.

Prospective teachers see those attacks — cuts in salaries and benefits, deterioration of collective bargaining rights — and are dissuaded from pursuing careers in teaching. Those attacks are compounded by the continuing chorus of criticism directed at teachers when student performance expectations are not met. As one member of the State Board of Education put it: “Teachers are demoralized. They feel like they are blamed for everything.”

The increasing reliance on standardized testing, much like the attacks on the teaching profession, has also diminished student’s interest in pursuing teaching careers, even for those students who finish college and receive their degree in education. According to the Michigan Department of Education, the number of people receiving teaching certificates after receiving their teaching degree fell by 27 percent over the last four years. These are students who completed their education, but were no longer interested in becoming teachers. The innovation and new ideas these young teachers hoped to bring to their own classroom are met with an increasing emphasis placed on standardized tests.

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