President's Message

In keeping with our commitment to advocate for high quality mathematics teacher education in support of quality mathematics teaching, the AMTE Board of Directors continues to work with our AMTE committees and members to remain proactive in addressing issues pertinent in mathematics teacher education. In this column, I discuss the issue of declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs and provide updates on the federal regulations for teacher preparation programsand AMTE’s response to decreased funding of the Institute of Education Sciences.

Declining Enrollments in Teacher Preparation Programs

In recent conversations with AMTE members, declining enrollments in teacher preparation have been a focal topic. This issue has become a glaring concern among mathematics teacher educators (MTEs) and the AMTE Board of Directors has been asked to investigate the issue of declining enrollment. In response, the AMTE Board charged the Emerging Issues Committee (EIC) with the task of considering what is known and suggest recommendations for how AMTE might support its members in addressing the issue. The charge is framed within the following questions: (a) Is there readily available data on the trends in teacher education enrollment?, (b) Why and is there actual decline occurring?, and (c) Should we survey our members for feedback for their perceptions on teacher education program (TEP) enrollment?

The EIC Committee Chair, Jennifer Luebeck, Committee Members, Sybilla Beckman, Corey Drake, Kathryn Chval, Paola Sztajn, Marilyn Strutchens, and Board Liaison, Kathleen Lynch-Davis responded: The EIC members agree “this is an important issue and one that affects us all.” We believe “this is a good topic for us to look into and something directly related to AMTE.” The general consensus is “there is plenty of data out there” and that the decline is reported to be hovering at 30% (reported by EdWeek, NPR). Media are beginning to cover this story.

In my research on the topic, I found the excerpt below in an article on the website of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). Sharon Robinson, AACTE President and Chief Executive Office wrote:

Each year, our nation’s PK-13 schools rely on colleges of teacher education to prepare thousands of new teachers. Between 2010 and 2019, the number of students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools is expected to grow from 55 to 58 million. Already, schools in high-need urban and rural areas struggle to recruit and retain enough qualified teachers, and many districts do not have sufficient special education or STEM specialists to serve student needs. Amidst these growing needs, however, enrollment in teacher preparation programs nationwide is falling and data from AACTE’s 800 member institutions show reductions over the last decade in undergraduate and graduate programs. What’s at the root of this worrisome decline and how can we start to turn the tide?

Not only does this article corroborate recent conversations and concerns among AMTE members, it also sheds light on the extent of the problem with respect to the number of institutions reporting declining enrollment in teacher preparation, especially the impact on the declining enrollment in STEM teacher preparation programs.

The EIC is in the process of executing an action plan that includes developing a survey to administer to AMTE members. The EIC proposes to construct the survey around three foundational questions: (a) What is the situation regarding declining enrollment in teacher preparation in your institution/state (particularly in mathematics)?, (b) Why do you think this situation is occurring?, and (c) What are data sources in your state that could help examine this critical issue?

In order for the AMTE Board to develop the best possible approaches for addressing this issue, we need to hear from our members. Therefore, we ask that you expect to receive the survey and be sure to respond.

Update on Proposed Federal Regulations on Teacher Preparation Programs

In a July 2015 press release, Statement of the GAO Report on Department of Education’s Role in Teacher Preparation Program Accountably, the AACTE reported there were 4,580 responses to the proposed Federal Regulations on Teacher Preparation Programs; fewer than 270 were supportive. Included among the responses opposing the proposed regulations was a letter from the AMTE Board on behalf of our members. While we have not yet received direct communication from Secretary Duncan, I did find the most current information for what is taking place with respect to the proposed regulations.

In August 2015, AACTE conducted a webinar, U.S. Department of Education Proposed Federal Teacher Preparation Program Regulations: August 2015 Update, presented by Deborah Koolbeck, Director of Government Regulations. Koolbeck shared the current timeline for the release of the regulations is fall 2015. She asserted the initial timeline was late August or early September. However, after the closing of the comment period the timeline was revised. Koolbeck attributed this push back on the timeline to the voluminous number of comments the Department received. She also noted, “to enforce the teacher preparation program regulations in July 2016, the regulations must be final November 2015.”

In the webinar Koolbeck went further to discuss two bills, (House of Representatives) H.R. 970 and (Senate) S. 599, that are guiding the conversation on regulations in higher education. She provided complete details about both bills and posited that AACTE supports the language in the House Bill. Koolbeck encouraged us to contact our members of Congress and become resources as the issues emerge. She urged us to ensure our comments on the proposed regulations are shared with our Senators and Representatives: “Now is the time to follow-up with the appropriate staffer and keep them up to date.” The webinar is archived and can be accessed by individuals whose institutions hold AACTE membership.

AMTE’s Response to Cuts in Funding of the Institute of Education Sciences

In the August meeting of the AMTE Board of Directors, the Board voted to approve AMTE as a signatory on the letter to the House of Representatives written by the Learning and Education Academic Research Network (LEARN) and the American Educational Research Association (AERA) expressing opposition to a decrease in funding of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) by nearly $164 million. The letter states, “As a result of the proposed cuts, critical research is at risk of being interrupted or abandoned, withholding valuable information from educators, policy-makers, administrators and families who are working to improve schools.” AMTE members were notified of these cuts and encouraged to take action through the “Emerging Issues” section of the AMTE website. However, we also wanted to inform our members of Board actions with respect to this significant issue that holds the potential to impact the ongoing research initiatives of mathematics teacher educators.

In this newsletter column, I discussed three issues that hold the potential to affect our work as mathematics teacher educators and informed you of actions taken by the AMTE Board. It is indeed a critical time for MTEs, and it is extremely important that as a Board and individual members that we remain proactive and focused as agents for the improvement of mathematics teacher education in support of quality mathematics teaching.

Christine Thomas, President
Georgia State University