Like many states, Indiana has had difficulty attracting college students to the teaching profession and retaining licensed teachers. To ensure a qualified and diverse teacher workforce, Indiana’s education leaders are committed to better understanding and addressing issues within the teacher pipeline.
A new study from Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest analyzed the characteristics of and outcomes for students who enrolled in Indiana public colleges or universities in 2010/11–2012/13 and pursued a bachelor’s degree in education. The findings reveal that leaks occurred at each stage in the teacher pipeline, as candidates left educator preparation programs or the profession. These leaks included decreases not only in the number but also the diversity of teacher candidates. Education leaders in Indiana and the Midwest can use these findings to inform policies and strategies that recruit and retain talented individuals to the teaching field, plug leaks in the teacher pipeline, and alleviate teacher shortages.
>> Read and download the full report and related infographic.
About the study: Understanding leaks in the teacher preparation pipeline
Leaders at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (ICHE) and the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) are concerned about teacher shortages in the state’s K–12 public schools. To provide these education leaders with a better understanding of Indiana’s teacher pipeline, the Midwest Alliance to Improve Teacher Preparation, which REL Midwest facilitates, conducted a study to provide comprehensive information on the numbers, characteristics, and outcomes of undergraduate students in education programs in Indiana public colleges and universities.
The study used longitudinal data for 11,080 students who enrolled in Indiana public colleges or universities in 2010/11, 2011/12, or 2012/13 and who pursued a bachelor’s degree in education at any point in college. Researchers analyzed the proportion of the students who completed a bachelor’s degree in education, who earned an initial instructional license, and who began teaching in an Indiana public school. In addition, the study examined factors related to completing a bachelor’s degree in education, such as student demographic characteristics and the characteristics of the colleges that students attended.
“There is little research in the literature on the characteristics, experiences, and outcomes of students pursuing an education major,” said Yinmei Wan, Ph.D., a senior researcher at REL Midwest and a coauthor of the study. “So the results of this study can inform the work of teacher preparation institutions and higher education agencies in other states beyond Indiana that also have identified the need for a better understanding of their teacher pipeline and for supporting diversity in teacher preparation.”
What did the study find?
The study found that leaks occurred at each step in Indiana’s teacher pipeline. These leaks included decreases in the number and the diversity of aspiring teacher candidates. Key findings include the following:
- Fewer than half of undergraduate education students completed a bachelor’s degree in education by 2017/18. About 41 percent of undergraduate education students in the 2010/11–2012/13 cohorts completed a bachelor’s degree in education by 2017/18. Among these completers, 55 percent earned an initial instructional license; among those licensed, 69 percent entered teaching in Indiana public schools.
- The diversity of teacher candidates decreased along the teacher pipeline. Compared with the initial group of undergraduate students entering education programs, students who completed a bachelor’s degree, who earned an initial instructional license, and who entered teaching in an Indiana public school were less likely to be from racial/ethnic minority groups or to have been eligible for the national school lunch program in high school.
Additional findings include:
- Students who entered an education program in their third year of college or later had a lower probability of completing an education degree than students who entered in their first year.
- Students who started at a two-year college and later transferred to a four-year college had a higher probability of completing a bachelor’s degree in education than students who started at a four-year college.
- Students who received an Indiana 21st Century Scholarship in their first year of college or who received financial aid beyond their first year were more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree in education. However, students who received a Pell Grant were less likely to complete a bachelor’s degree in education.
What can we take away from the study?
Based on these findings, state and local education leaders in Indiana may want to consider the following strategies to attract talented individuals into the teaching field and to help teacher candidates succeed in college and the classroom.
- Prioritize strategies that increase diversity in the teacher pipeline. Indiana state agencies and colleges and universities of higher education may want to refine existing programs (such as the Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship or the Teacher Residency Grant Pilot Program) to recruit and retain more individuals of color to the teaching profession. Recruitment and retention strategies could include offering targeted scholarships, forgivable loans, student debt assistance programs, high school–based cadet and academy programs, and teacher residency models.
- Provide more academic and social supports to undergraduate education students from low-income backgrounds. Students who received an Indiana 21st Century Scholarship in their first year of college or who received financial aid beyond their first year were more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree in education. Holistic support for students from low-income backgrounds could include increasing financial aid and expanding other resources, such as the college readiness supports provided by the 21st Century Scholarship program.
- Encourage students to enroll in education programs no later than the end of the second year of college. Entering an education program in the third year or later was associated with a lower probability of completing a bachelor’s degree in education. Colleges can support students early in making informed decisions about majors and advise undergraduate education students on how to balance their content-area coursework with their education coursework.
- Promote policies that encourage qualified students to transfer from two-year to four-year colleges and enter education programs. In 2013, the Indiana legislature passed a bill requiring state colleges and universities to create a single articulation pathway for programmatic areas in which large numbers of students first obtain an associate’s degree with the intent of eventually obtaining a bachelor’s degree. The bill led to the creation of Transfer Single Articulation Pathways in 20 program areas as of fall 2020, including early childhood education, elementary education, special education, secondary biology education, secondary chemistry education, and secondary math education. Students completing Transfer Single Articulation Pathways can transfer all 60 credits into a bachelor’s degree program at a four-year public college and enter with junior status. The findings from this study support the state’s ongoing effort to provide a smooth, predictable pathway for students to transfer from two-year to four-year colleges and enter education programs.
Ken Sauer, Ph.D., senior associate commissioner and chief academic officer at ICHE, notes that “this study highlights many concerning trends when it comes to ensuring Indiana has a diverse and qualified pipeline of teachers. ICHE’s own research has identified similar trends around the lack of diversity in the educator pipeline, in particular, and our strategic focus on ways to strengthen the educator pipeline aligns with many of this report’s recommendations. Fixing these ‘leaks’ along the way for students is crucial for our work going forward, from ensuring students start and complete their degrees on time to helping more students of color and from low-income backgrounds see teaching as a viable career choice and then supporting them on the way.”
To learn more about how the Midwest Alliance to Improve Teacher Preparation addresses regional needs related to recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers, browse the resources below:
- A 2019 REL Midwest report examines teacher supply and demand in Michigan over the previous five years and projects future trends to understand better where potential teacher shortages might occur. A related infographic highlights the key findings.
- Two REL Midwest documentaries and one video explore issues related to recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers:
- The Michigan Department of Education and REL Midwest conducted a two-part training to explore the potential of clinically oriented teacher preparation programs, or teacher residencies, in Michigan. REL Midwest generated a training handout that describes characteristics of successful clinically oriented teacher preparation programs and profiles 10 of these programs throughout the United States.
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