What the teacher surplus means for teacher preparation

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Michigan's state school chief Michael Flanagan gets it.

In an interview published today in the Kalamazoo Gazette, Michael Flanagan puts his finger on why teacher preparation programs are so averse to raising admissions standards.

"I get the business model," he says, "The business model is about tuition."

But ensuring that teacher preparation programs net a steady supply of candidates isn't helping Michigan any.

The Michigan Education Association estimates that only a third of the approximately 7,500 teachers who graduate from the state's preparation programs actually find work in the state. Most of these graduates come from the state's taxpayer-subsidized colleges and universities. And yet, Flangan notes, the overall talent level of new teachers is not where it should be to help Michigan's students.

Michigan isn't alone. Nationally, only around 40% of the 235,000 graduates of teacher preparation programs are hired immediately after getting certified.

What's more, the field's focus on quantity undermines the training of all teachers. The student teaching experience is where most teacher candidates first try their hand at teaching. But, as we found in our report on student teaching, enrollment in teacher prep is so large that teacher candidates are literally begging for placements. Programs themselves by and large don't try to find effective mentors for their candidates — nor could they, given the volume at which they are producing teachers.

Michigan and the country as a whole do face a teacher shortage — a shortage of effective teachers. But if teacher preparation is going to meet this challenge, it will have to raise its standards of admission and training.

Arthur McKee