Academic journal article Community College Review

ERIC Review: The Role of Community Colleges in Training Tomorrow's School Teachers

Academic journal article Community College Review

ERIC Review: The Role of Community Colleges in Training Tomorrow's School Teachers

Article excerpt

Over the next 10 years, the U.S. will be facing a shortage of elementary and secondary teachers. In 1997, Secretary of Education Richard Riley estimated that schools will need to hire 2 million teachers during the next decade to replace retiring teachers and keep pace with growing enrollments (Riley, 1999). Teacher shortages have been occurring in states and communities around the nation as colleges and schools of education cannot produce enough credentialed teachers to meet the demand (Banks, 1999; Bragg, 1998; Riley, 1999). Higher education must expand efforts to recruit people into the teaching profession and prepare a new generation of qualified teachers.

As a vast sector of higher education and the entry point into higher education for millions of students, community colleges play an important but often overlooked role in teacher education. For prospective teachers, community colleges offer education coursework, teaching field experiences, and teacher preparation articulation agreements and partnerships with four-year institutions. In recent years, educational and state leaders have issued calls for an expanded community college role in teacher training and recruitment. In Shaping the Future, the National Science Foundation asserted: "A large percentage of prospective teachers begin their education in two-year colleges. These institutions, with their clear commitment to teaching and with so many prospective teachers as students, must be more significant partners in the system of teacher preparation" (as cited in Bragg, 1998). This article discusses the need for teachers, presents community colleges as an important source for teacher recruitment, highlights some of the ways in which community colleges contribute to teacher education, and discusses ways to expand the future role of community colleges in teacher preparation.

The Need for Teachers

The current supply of qualified teachers is not sufficient to meet national staffing requirements, nor is the number of students entering teacher training great enough to meet projected demands (Banks, 1999; Bragg, 1998; Hayer & Watson, 1997; Hirsch, Koppich, & Knapp, 1998). Between 1980 and 2002, the number of teachers needed will grow from 2.5 million to 3.3 million. This represents one of the largest increases in teacher demand over the past century (Banks, 1999).

The reasons for this demand are fourfold: rising population of school-age children, high teacher retirement rates, an increased emphasis on smaller class sizes, and high levels of teacher attrition (Banks, 1999; Hirsch, Koppich, & Knapp, 1998). Between 1994 and 2006, enrollment in public schools is expected to increase up to 20% depending on the region (American Association of Colleges for Teaching [AACTE], 1999). Many teachers are nearing retirement with more than half being age 40 or older (AACTE, 1999; Banks, 1999). The student-to-teacher ratio has decreased from 20.0 in 1981 to 18.4 in 1994 and is expected to drop to about 17 by 2006 due to class size reductions (AACTE, 1999). Further exacerbating these demands are difficult working conditions and low salaries that contribute to high attrition rates among teachers (Recruiting New Teachers, Inc. [RNT], 2000a; Riley, 1999).

Enrollment in teacher training programs and the numbers of elementary and secondary teachers are increasing. From 1990-91 to 1993-94, the number of teachers grew by almost 300,000, an 11% increase. Between 1991 and 1995, enrollment in teacher education programs increased almost 6% (AACTE, 1999). Although this recent growth is encouraging, three important factors suggest that the teacher shortage will persist: high teacher demands in certain areas; the large numbers of new teachers working without full credentials; and the need for greater numbers of minority teachers.

Teachers in Rural and Urban Schools

Demand for teachers is not evenly distributed. Rural and inner-city urban schools are more likely to experience teacher shortages than are suburban schools. …

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