Teacher education programs continue to suffer 'death by a thousand cuts' (2023)

The University of South Florida shocked faculty members with its recent decision to close its College of Education, which has a large undergraduate population, and retain only a graduate program. The University of California, Davis’s teacher education program staved off a planned suspension due only to widespread outcry. Experts say that education programs -- long devalued on and off many campuses -- are under even greater threat in an era of COVID-19-related budget cuts.

“Education programs have been at risk for a while, and COVID exacerbates the risk… It's another cut in a death by a thousand cuts,” said Francyne Huckaby, professor of curriculum studies at Texas Christian University and president of the Society of Professors of Education.

Closing a College

At South Florida, education professors knew that cuts were coming, as the university previously announced that it needed to slash its budget by some $36.7million this fiscal year: the State University System of Florida asked all universities to prepare plans for an 8.5percent state funding cut, and a second round of cuts is expected next year. But these professors had no idea that the entire college would be scrapped until Judith A. Ponticell, interim dean of education, shared the news with them in an email this month.

“As part of our strategic budget renewal process, USF must reduce the College of Education’s annual budget allocation by $6.8M (or 35percent) over two years, a challenging task that demands a comprehensive assessment as we plan for the future of education at USF,” Ponticell wrote. The solution, she said, is “strategically reimagining and reconfiguring education at USF from a comprehensive College of Education to a more focused Graduate School of Education,” housed within another, yet-to-be-named college.

The elimination of the bachelor’s degree program in education and closure of the college “reflects the evolving demands of students, who are increasingly seeking alternative pathways to teacher certification outside of the traditional baccalaureate degree,” Ponticell said. Going forward, students may seek a master of arts degree in teaching as part of a five-year combined degree program.

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Having a graduate school “enables us to leverage our strengths in our master’s, educational specialist and doctoral degree programs,” Ponticell wrote, “and to place a stronger emphasis on research opportunities and contributions to our important PreK-12 partners and beyond.”

According to information from the university, total enrollment within the college has dropped from 5,117 students to 2,384 students within the past decade. Undergraduate enrollment alone has dropped from 2,893 to 1,066.

Nationally, enrollment in bachelor's degree programs in education is declining, but not as precipitously. Some 82,621 students graduated with four-year degrees in education in 2018, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, compared to 102,849 in 2008.

‘Disrupting’ Education in Florida

At the same time, Florida’s K-12 population is growing, and local school districts -- some of the nation’s largest -- hire many of their teachers straight out of South Florida. In Pasco County, for instance, 1,887 teachers of about 5,000 total graduated from the institution. Florida's K-12 population is projected to grow by about 14percent between 2011 and 2023, compared to a 5percent national increase.

Local school leaders have already voiced opposition to South Florida’s plan, saying they weren’t consulted. Mike Grego, superintendent of Pinellas County Schools, told the Tampa Bay Times that “we depend on USF’s undergraduate program to fill our teaching needs.” Instead of closing the undergraduate program, he encouraged South Florida to “reinvent” it, in part to attract more students.

Florida already has a “serious and growing” teacher shortage, according to the Florida Education Association, which attributes this form of “silent strike” to Florida’s No.46 ranking for teacher pay, overcrowded classrooms, an inflexible “teach-to-the-test” culture and a general lack of respect and support for teachers. The group reported in January that 2,440 teaching positions were open in Florida, up 10percent from a year earlier.

In Florida and elsewhere, teacher advocates worry that new pressures facing teachers as a result of the coronavirus, such as online teaching and calls for a return to the physical classroom without funding for additional safety measures, will accelerate this flight from the profession.

Jenifer Jasinski Schneider, a professor of literacy studies at South Florida, said that despite the challenges facing teachers, many students still want to become educators. A four-year degree helps boost their chances of success, as they enter the profession with a realistic sense of what it entails, a theoretical and practical grounding in pedagogy, and a set of mentors on whom to rely even after they graduate, she said.

Schneider warned that the college's elimination would lead to unintended consequences across the region, from even more serious teacher shortages to increased costs for districts forced to provide more professional development for underprepared teachers. Less qualified high school graduates might also end up on the local job market, she said.

“When you disrupt education, you really disrupt a lot of other elements of society,” said Schneider, who is vice president of South Florida’s Faculty Senate but did not speak on behalf of that group. “We may not be producing as many teachers as we were 10 to 20 years ago, but we are contributing to the districts we serve.” She urged the university to look beyond the very real economic impact of COVID-19 and to “also think long term.”

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“What are the values of USF? Do we understand that this means and its impact to our community? Where are we prioritizing our efforts? I think USF as a whole needs to take a step back and think about it.”

Even a one-year master’s degree isn’t necessarily enough to prepare someone for say, corralling 20 to 30 students, some of whom will be learning English, have learning differences or face problems at home, Schneider said.

“Not everybody’s going to want to believe this, but there is something we provide you can’t get anywhere else. You can’t just learn the content disciplines without understanding pedagogical practices and how to structure learning in the classroom.” One classic problem for new teachers is “managing students in a space, getting students to work together and create together,” Schneider added. “In old-fashioned terms, this is called classroom management and behavior management.”

Another focus of today’s education degree programs is antiracist pedagogies -- a professed value of many colleges and universities.

Nathan Jones, associate professor of special education at Boston University and section chair within the American Educational Research Association’s teaching and teacher education division, said the events at South Florida “surely put a lot of teacher education programs on edge,” as the campus is known for having “a large, prominent program” with “many strengths.”

Jones said he suspected that similar education programs, and those at large public institutions in particular, “face the dual threats of decreased revenue due to the loss of on-campus students but also due to decreases in state budgets” during COVID-19.

Even where programs don’t close, he said, “we are seeing a particular crunch for non-tenure-track faculty.”

South Florida’s plan is obviously designed to cut instructional costs, but it’s not yet clear exactly how many professors will be affected. Art Shapiro, professor of education and president of the campus faculty union, which is affiliated with the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, estimated that 35 full-time jobs would be eliminated, with instructors who have served fewer than five years losing their jobs first.

Long-Term Trends

Huckaby said that overall investment in public education has been declining by many measures since the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education. The space race also changed conversations about education from what it could do for students and society to what it could deliver, she explained. And the rise of alternative teacher certification programs is a consequence of that disinvestment -- and a primary threat to education degree programs and their value to public education.

While alternative certification programs are shorter and cost less up front than university-based degree programs, Huckaby continued, “the bachelor’s degree is a more robust education that prepares one well for being a teacher.” Alternative certification programs are, in many cases, “insufficient preparation for educating K-12 students.”

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As of 2016, some 18percent of public school teachers entered the profession via alternative route to certification program, according to federal data. One benefit of these programs is that they increase teacher diversity in terms of race and gender. But their standards vary widely.

Alternative certification programs, first established in New Jersey over 30 years ago, are now offered in every state, according to the National Council onTeacher Quality. The first programs focused on getting "content-proficient" adults with backgrounds in science, math and other fields into secondary classrooms without making them earn another degree. But alternative paths to teaching have since proliferated. The national council,in its 2014 study of 85 alternative programs, gave the majority D or F grades. In general, they all ask the teacher candidate to serve simultaneously as the “teacher of record” and an “intern” prior to obtaining certification. Learning happens first and foremost on the job.

Failing grades mean the programs have no required grade point average for applicants, or a minimum GPA of 2.5. There is generally no standardized test or teaching audition required. Required fieldwork prior to teaching amounts to a week or less, and there is no clinical practice. Teachers within these program are observed infrequently.

A grades, meanwhile, mean programs require at a least a 3.0 GPA and an audition from applicants, that students have majored or passed a content test in their planned teaching area, clinical practice and observations prior to teaching and ongoing mentor support.

Confusion in California

Earlier this month, Davis announced that it was seeking to suspend admissions to its master's-level teacher credentialing program for at least a year as it redesigned the curriculum. That’s despite a documented teacher shortage in 80percent of California’s school districts, and the fact that -- unlike South Florida -- Davis’s teacher education enrollment numbers have remained relatively constant over five years, from 124 in 2015 to 132 this year. There were surges in students in 2017 and 2019, however: 174 and 159, respectively.

“Among our priorities will be better integrating our innovative research into our curriculum, expanding and deepening the ways we prepare our graduates to address institutional racism, and increasing the use of digital tools for teaching and learning,” Davis’s School of Education said in an announcement of the plan and intent to put it to a faculty vote.

Students, alumni and many faculty members immediately began to protest the plan, asking why a curricular redesign centered on equity and justice couldn’t happen concurrently with instruction -- especially in this moment of racial reckoning. These critics also pointed out that curriculum changes rarely take just a year, meaning that admissions could be suspended for much longer than that.

Meanwhile, instructors in the program say they were told to prepare for furloughs, with the chance of reapplying for their jobs sometime in the future.

“At the heart of the program's success are the clinical faculty who are best suited to bridge university research with classroom practice,” reads a alumni-led petition demanding that any revamping of the curriculum happen concurrently with instruction. “The school's [proposed] suspension of the teacher credentialing program is distressing for alumni and for the communities in which the school partners and serves. Any suspension will destroy a vital lifeline of preservice teacher preparation that supports the wellbeing of California's schools.”

Rebecca Rosa, lecturer in education at Davis, said it was unlikely that furloughed instructors within the program would wait around for their jobs to return in the middle of the pandemic and attendant faltering economy. Beyond Davis, one of the biggest problems with the plan was that “there were no discussions with key stakeholders,” including the feeder schools that draw teachers from the program.

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“Whatever the real rationale is behind this, what they’re saying makes no sense,” Rosa said of the university’s communication about the plan.

Within a few days of the plan being announced, Lauren E. Lindstrom, dean of education, wrote to the School of Education saying that while she was “still convinced that a major redesign is necessary, we have listened to faculty, staff, and community input and have decided to slow down our process.”

Admissions will stay open for 2021, she said, as the school engages in a more “deliberative” process about what should happen with respect to instruction during the redesign.

“A teacher preparation program must be responsive to constantly evolving educational priorities and must model the continuous improvement process that we instill in our own students,” Lindstrom said. “We have received input through course evaluations, end-of-year surveys, student town halls, and focus group interviews telling us that we need to update both our coursework and program design to reflect significant changes in public school systems. Our program must create opportunities for prospective teachers to effectively engage with the current climate, including by addressing systemic racism; meeting the needs of LGBTQ students, bilingual students, and students with disabilities; and using digital tools to promote learning.”

In her memo, Lindstrom insisted that shutting the program down was “never under consideration.”

‘Alarm Bells’

Alyson Adams, director for teaching and teaching education at the University of Florida’s School of Teaching and Learning, said she imagined enrollment declines were happening at colleges of education across the U.S., and that the biggest reason -- at least in Florida -- is probably alternative certification programs.

At the University of Florida, students are currently required to complete a master's degree for full elementary education certification, but Adams said that school principals try to hire students as teachers even before they complete their studies. So Adams’s campus is developing a four-year degree with certification at the bachelor’s level, to respond to local school needs.

Adams’s campus also offers alternative pathways to teaching, such as Educator Preparation Institutes and minors in teaching for undergraduates. Yet Adams said she and her colleagues were “sad” about the developments at South Florida because “we believe in the power of a formal teacher preparation program with coursework and rich clinical experiences.”

South Florida has a reputation for strong professional development with local school networks, which could “be impacted by the loss of undergraduate teacher education,” she said. “Another less visible impact will be on Ph.D. student preparation, as those learning to become teacher educators may not have courses to teach or interns to supervise, and therefore be less marketable for teacher ed jobs.”

What’s to become of other teacher education programs in the COVID-19 economy? Jones, of Boston University, said that on one hand, a case "could be made that education as a field of study will grow more attractive," especially to "highly qualified candidates who may not have historically considered teaching."

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On the other hand, Jones said, there has been an “existential threat facing colleges of education for several years.” It’s therefore “easy to foresee that a crisis like the current one might accelerate declines in enrollment.” Shrinking cohorts of teacher education candidates may also “provide a rationale for universities to reduce faculty or close altogether” when forced with making “hard decisions.”

Adams said she hoped news of South Florida’s College of Education closing “sounds alarm bells.”


Teacher education programs continue to suffer 'death by a thousand cuts'? ›

“Education programs have been at risk for a while, and COVID exacerbates the risk … It's another cut in a death by a thousand cuts,” said Francyne Huckaby, professor of curriculum studies at Texas Christian University and president of the Society of Professors of Education.

Are less people getting education degrees? ›

That was down 19% from 2000-01, when colleges and universities issued more than 105,000 bachelor's degrees in education, or roughly 8% of all undergraduate degrees. The decrease is even more pronounced when looking at the longer term.

Why are students not going into teaching? ›

On one hand, it's possible fewer people went into teaching because they didn't like the transition to virtual learning or didn't feel comfortable in schools. But it's also possible more people entered teaching thanks to states' temporarily waiving or permanently reducing their licensure requirements.

What is the education program for teachers in the Philippines? ›

The standard teaching credential in the Philippines is a four-year bachelor's degree. Elementary school teachers are qualified through a Bachelor of Elementary Education, and secondary school teachers through a Bachelor of Secondary Education.

Is there a decline in teachers? ›

Interest in the teaching profession among high school seniors and college freshmen has fallen 50 percent since the 1990s and the number of new entrants into the profession has fallen by roughly one third over the last decade. Teachers' job satisfaction, they found, is at the lowest level in five decades.

Is education declining in America? ›

Nationwide, undergraduate college enrollment dropped 8% from 2019 to 2022, with declines even after returning to in-person classes, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse. The slide in the college-going rate since 2018 is the steepest on record, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why teachers are leaving teaching? ›

The survey points to multiple reasons for unhappiness, and those teachers who are considering leaving the profession cited burnout from stress (57%) and political attacks on teachers (40%), followed by a heavy workload compounded by staff shortages.

Why is teaching so draining? ›

It's estimated that teachers make about 1,500 decisions every school day. When you combine those decisions with all the necessary self-regulation involved with teaching kids, it's no wonder our willpower is gone by five o'clock. We are exhausted.

Why are so many school teachers quitting? ›

The findings show that while many teachers find their work rewarding, a majority said they felt exhausted and stressed — with burnout cited as the top reason for leaving the profession.

What difficulties are they experiencing in teaching? ›

10 Challenges Of Teaching & How To Overcome Them
  • Understanding the different learning challenges amongst students. ...
  • Student family problems & bullying. ...
  • Lack of funding. ...
  • Lack of effective communication. ...
  • Being encouraging and motivating under challenging times. ...
  • Disciplining students. ...
  • Endless paperwork & extended working hours.

How to become a teacher in MA without an education degree? ›

Professional Teaching License

Candidates who hold a bachelor's degree may also obtain Massachusetts teacher certification by completing an approved post-graduate program that includes teacher preparation. Alternative programs such as these can be completed in as little as one year as a certificate.

How much is the salary of a teacher in the Philippines? ›

How much does a Teacher make? The national average salary for a Teacher is Php 25,000 in Philippines. Filter by location to see Teacher salaries in your area. Salary estimates are based on 968 salaries submitted anonymously to Glassdoor by Teacher employees.

Are teachers in America underpaid? ›

Allegretto found that teachers are paid, on average, 23.5% less than other educated workers who choose other professions. “Even ones who want to become teachers often say they're not going to be because they know they're going to fall further and further behind,” she said.

What states are losing the most teachers? ›

According to U.S. Department of Education data from the 2022-2023 school year, Maine is experiencing the most teacher vacancies in special education, math, science, language arts, early childhood, elementary core subjects, art and music, and career and technical education.

Why is teaching so hard right now? ›

Teaching is arguably more difficult now than it has ever been for a variety of reasons, including learner behavior, fast-changing technology, and poor compensation. This essay will look at some of the reasons why teaching has become such a difficult profession.

Is the US population becoming better educated? ›

The percentage of the population age 25 and older with associate degrees rose from 9.5% to 10.5% between 2011 and 2021. Between 2011 and 2021, the percentage of people age 25 and older who had completed a bachelor's degree or higher increased by 7.5 percentage points from 30.4% to 37.9%.

What country is number one in education? ›

United States

Has education been defunded in the US? ›

Spending data show the U.S. has not been defunding public education.

What is the #1 reason teachers quit? ›

Beyond compensation, these educators also feel overworked and undervalued. Nearly 75 percent of respondents who cite expectations as a top reason they plan to leave say they have too much work to do each day and that there aren't enough teachers to carry the workload.

Where are teachers quitting the most? ›

In Washington state, more teachers left the classroom after last school year than at any point in the last three decades. Maryland and Louisiana saw more teachers depart than any time in the last decade. And North Carolina saw a particularly alarming trend of more teachers leaving mid-school year.

At what rate are teachers quitting? ›

That's a turnover rate of 14%, up from between 11% and 12% in a typical pre-pandemic year.

Why are so many teachers unhappy? ›

Many of the predominant challenges teachers face, including safety concerns, low salaries, funding deficits and declining mental health, are not new issues — but the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has intensified existing problems within the profession.

Why do people not like teaching? ›

Lack of Respect

Teaching can sometimes feel like a thankless job, especially when dealing with difficult students or family members. In addition to dealing with difficult students or family members, some teachers also feel micromanaged by administrators.

Why do teachers not make a lot of money? ›

A number of factors contribute to how far a teacher's salary goes—family structure, caregiving responsibilities, health issues, and student loans among them. While many teachers in the U.S. must work second jobs to live comfortably, plenty do not. Some of them live in states that pay better than others.

Why are teachers treated so poorly? ›

Low pay, lack of respect from parents, administration, and children, lack of promotional opportunities, classroom assaults, having to pay for many school supplies that the school district should pay for, lawsuits, long hours with no overtime, etc.

Is there a shortage of college educated workers? ›

“But we will still face a major shortage of college-educated workers especially as baby boomers retire.” The study also finds that 65 percent of job vacancies will require some postsecondary education and training. 6 million jobs will require a graduate degree. 13 million jobs will require a baccalaureate degree.

Is education getting more competitive? ›

There are a number of reasons for the increased competitiveness in college admission. Although the number of high school graduates in each state has either plateaued or decreased in recent years, there are more applicants because a larger percentage of graduates apply to four-year colleges.

What is the #1 reason students drop out of higher education? ›

Many students leave college because they couldn't find a healthy school-work-life balance. The time spent on class lectures, projects, tests and studying prove to be too much. College is a multiyear commitment, and many students drop out because they just don't have that kind of time to complete their degrees.

Why are college degrees losing value? ›

However, some experts say the value of a bachelor's degree is now fading as college costs remain high and a shortage of workers increases opportunities in the labor force — with or without a diploma.

Who has the most educated workforce in America? ›

Washington, DC is continuously ranked as the most educated region in the country, with 63% of the population receiving a bachelor's degree or higher as of 2021. Massachusetts followed closely with 47% of the population obtaining a bachelor's degree or higher.

How many jobs don't need a college degree? ›

By analyzing over 51 million job postings dating back to 2014, the researchers found that between 2017 and 2019 roughly 46 percent of “middle-skill” and 37 percent of “high-skill” occupations no longer asked for a bachelor's degree, and instead had job postings listing technical and social skills instead.

Do employers still care about college degrees? ›

And remember those critical skills employers are looking for? Having a degree demonstrates that you have those. Many employers are even willing to leave a job unfilled longer so they can fill it with the right degree-qualified candidate. Your future employer cares about your degree, and so should you!

What is the hardest year of education? ›

While junior year is often the hardest year of high school, the transition from middle school to 9th grade can also be tough. To make it easier, don't feel afraid to reach out to your teachers and counselors, and take advantage of the support resources that are available.

Has education gotten better or worse? ›

Yes, schools are improving

More students are learning more. Over the long run, there is strong evidence that educational achievement is slowly improving all over the world. In America, including California, long-term measurable learning results have been improving for students in all subgroups.

How many Americans Cannot afford college? ›

A college education is widely perceived as unaffordable for most Americans, with 77% of U.S. adults saying a college degree would be difficult for someone like them to afford. 82% of women said a college degree would be difficult to afford, compared with 73% of men.

Do dropouts succeed in life? ›

Based on these numbers, the college dropout success rate is only at around 6%. There is no guarantee of financial success if one chooses to leave school and pursue an interest that could possibly be translated into a scalable business.

What are the two biggest causes of students dropping out? ›

Academic difficulties, bad grades, and poor academic performance can all contribute to dropping out. Children from low-income homes may need to work to support their families or care for siblings. Retention, or being held back a grade, can undermine a child's self-esteem.

Do you really need a degree? ›

Decide what career you want first and check if a degree is needed. Even if a degree is not needed in the beginning, it may be required in order for you to move higher up within your company or field. That being said, you can certainly be successful without a college degree — your skills and talents can get you hired.

What percent of college graduates regret going to college? ›

Despite wide differences in levels of regret when it comes to majors, the vast majority of respondents were glad they went to school. Only 9% of those who attended a public institution wish they had not gone to college, the Federal Reserve survey found.

Is it better to go to college or work? ›

Neither option is better or worse. It depends on what best suits the individual. Studies show that people that go to college earn more and are less likely to experience unemployment. That being said, college is not for everyone, the time investment may not be worth it for some, and the cost is extremely high.


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