School of Education Dean Shelley Wepner wrote an op-ed on the future of schools of education and what Manhattanville is doing to buck national trends and increase enrollment. The article was published on January 15, 2020, in The Journal News titled, "Looming crisis: If schools of education close, who will train teachers?"
"There has been a dramatic shift in recent years in the field of education. With declining enrollments, schools and colleges of education struggle to stay afloat. But if these schools can’t survive, who will be left to address the growing national teacher shortage?
As recently as seven years ago, schools and colleges of education were graduating too many for too few jobs. Now, jobs are available, with outcries about existing or impending teacher shortages at the local and national levels. A report this year by the Economic Policy Institute finds that the teacher shortage is large and growing, and worse than anticipated. This report explains that when teacher certification and training are considered, the shortage is much worse than estimated, with low-income schools experiencing an acute shortage of credentialed teachers.
Once considered the “cash cow” for higher education institutions, schools and colleges of education are now struggling to generate the enrollment they once had. Even with good prospects for employment upon graduation, students are not attracted to a field that often will lead to what they perceive to be a belittled career and mediocre working conditions and lifestyle.
Some schools and colleges of education are now facing closure, consolidation, or reorganization within their institutions. Even though schools of education are not expensive to operate compared to other professional schools, institutions today have limited resources to pay hefty administrative and faculty salaries.
Internally, schools of education are generally viewed as borderline academies which do not generate earth-shattering research, attract academically talented students, or provide a wealthy alumni pool. Externally, schools of education are seen as ill-prepared to produce teachers and leaders who can solve the myriad academic, linguistic, economic, and social challenges that plague P-12 schools.
Many of my colleague deans feel unappreciated and unsupported. They are constantly grappling with policy changes at the state and federal levels, with noneducators making decisions about P-12 teacher education. Most disturbing to them is the negative messaging about education in the media. They believe that the lack of student interest in teaching comes from the denigrating messages about teachers and principals as professionals. They lament that they are the most regulated profession, with ever-changing requirements that are not necessary.
These same colleagues believe deeply in P-12 education as the great equalizer for all and are proud to be in a profession that has a profound positive effect on the lives of children and adolescents. They are gratified when their undergraduate and graduate students transform into teachers who are extraordinarily successful in P-12 classrooms. They are proud of the work and research that their faculty are doing to ultimately help P-12 students achieve in significant ways.
What can and should schools of education do to survive?
Nimbleness is essential and messaging is critical. We, as leaders of schools and colleges of education, need to identify ways to diversify so that we are not solely dependent on enrollment of those seeking initial teaching certification. If possible, we should develop programs and initiatives for practicing teachers and leaders delivered on campus, at off-campus sites, and in online or hybrid environments.
We at Manhattanville have focused on building programs at the advanced graduate certification and doctoral levels. We have formed partnerships to offer our programs at off-campus sites to maximize convenience for those who live and work in other counties. We also have worked with New York State BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) sites, public organizations that provide shared educational programs and services to school districts, to co-sponsor academic programming. And, we are launching online coursework for our All But Dissertation doctoral pathway for those who have done all coursework for a doctoral degree but have not completed their dissertation. These types of partnerships and initiatives are mutually beneficial. They expand our reach while providing academic programs to students who would otherwise not easily be able to access them.
We also need to be mindful of our messaging. We need to publicly highlight the nobility of our profession and focus on the intrinsic and altruistic reasons for education as a career. We can cite a Gallup Poll finding that, next to physicians, teachers have the highest overall well-being because they believe that they have an important purpose in life. Teachers have the most positive emotions because of daily satisfaction in helping students learn.
We also can hope that, because of the law of supply and demand, those responsible for influencing the way teachers are compensated and treated begin to make adjustments so that undergraduate and graduate students want to once again pursue what is an extraordinary profession for extraordinary people."