Indiana Schools Dealing With Fewer Young Teachers

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WOWO): Some would argue that the need for good teachers has never been greater. But Indiana‘s colleges and universities are having trouble finding young people who want those teaching jobs.   

The number of students at schools of education at many of the state‘s schools has been falling precipitously for years. The dean of Purdue University‘s College of Education, Maryann Santos de Barona, made news recently when she confronted Purdue president Mitch Daniels with news that enrollment at her college had dropped by 33-percent since 2010. de Barona blamed education reforms championed by Daniels while he was governor for the enrollment losses, without naming Daniels. The argument was seconded by Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of IU‘s School of Education, who said in an Indianapolis Star op-ed that constant dollar teacher salaries in Indiana dropped by 10-percent between 2000 and 2012, the second-largest drop in the country. 

Steve Perkins, Indiana‘s Teacher Of The Year in 2014, said it‘s about more than money. The Latin teacher at North Central High School in Indianapolis says he has talked to many young teachers who are initially excited because of their belief in what they have long been told – that they are there to make a difference in a child‘s life. “But instead of having freedom (to teach), they find it‘s about lockstep conformity. It‘s about preparing for tests from the first day of school onward,” Perkins said. Perkins likens teachers to artists who have received a commission from an emperor, in this case the state‘s education hierarchy. “Then, all of a sudden, you find out the emperor has something else in mind…the cleaning of the grout on the dungeon walls. You say ‘I didn‘t think I was signing up for that,‘” Perkins said. “That‘s the level of disconnect that people are experiencing.”

Statewide, the number of students at colleges of education dropped by 28-percent between 2010 and 2013. Some education reformers don‘t see that as a bad thing. Many reformers are advocates for alternative teaching programs – Teach For America, for example – arguing that schools of education have too often turned out poor teachers, hence the need for strict standards and increased standardized testing. But Perkins says the solutions have too often been of the ‘one size-fits all‘ variety‘, which has led to fewer people who wish to be part of the solution. “Is there a lack of rigor in some schools? Of course. Are there some poor teachers? Of course. But all that is not going to be cured by more testing and evaluations and putting labels on teachers and schools.”