Fewer entering teacher prep programs at Louisiana universities

Codi Saxon

Fewer people seem to be going into teaching in Louisiana, and most don’t stay for long tenures, causing teacher shortages in schools and less-than-stellar experiences — and outcomes — for students. And these are not new problems. Enrollment in education programs at Louisiana public colleges has dropped by nearly 8,000 students in […]

Fewer people seem to be going into teaching in Louisiana, and most don’t stay for long tenures, causing teacher shortages in schools and less-than-stellar experiences — and outcomes — for students.

And these are not new problems. Enrollment in education programs at Louisiana public colleges has dropped by nearly 8,000 students in the last 20 years, including significant losses in recent years.

“For us it’s interesting to navigate the tension between empowering potential future teachers of Louisiana to enter into something they are consistently being told not to do from teachers, family members, from society,” said Aimee Barber, an associate professor in the College of Education at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Her job is training future teachers and encouraging them to embrace the profession she chose for herself. A former first-grade teacher, she said she went into teacher education to show the magic in teaching, yet there’s tension because of the gap between “the magic teaching could be and what teaching is,” she said.

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Statewide enrollment data show that the number of students signing up for degrees in education at Louisiana public colleges has been falling for years. In fall 2020, the most recent figures available from the Louisiana Board of Regents, there were 12,597 students enrolled in an education-related program.

Degree fields range from the broader “education, general” and “elementary education and teaching” to more specific programs like “school librarian/media specialist” and “curriculum and instruction.” Programs also range by level, including certificates and associate’s degree through terminal degrees.

The 2020 figure was up almost 400 students, which could be a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy and job market. It also marked the first increase in enrollment in these programs since fall 2010. The rest of the years in that span showed declines.

Not just a recruitment issue

There’s another piece to this pipeline. While fewer teaching candidates may be entering the profession, there also are more exiting.

“Looking at teacher shortages we would be naïve to think it’s just a recruitment issue,” Barber said.

Fewer people seem to be going into teaching in Louisiana, as enrollment in education programs at public colleges across the state has fallen by about 8,000 students in the last 20 years. -- Friday, Oct. 15, 2021.

Staying in the profession for decades may no longer be the norm. Teachers across the U.S. had on average about 14 years of experience in 2015-16, according to a poll from the National Education Association.

MORE:Lafayette teachers group voices concern over workload

In Louisiana 60{565afb6a7dd3ab7cf54100f70e42ab263dca1ef4e5addf37831397e398fc3d13} of classroom teachers leave after 10 years, and 50{565afb6a7dd3ab7cf54100f70e42ab263dca1ef4e5addf37831397e398fc3d13} leave in the first five years, state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said. One in three new teachers were leaving the profession within their first year before COVID-19.

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