WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Applications to teacher colleges across Indiana
have hit their lowest levels in at least five years as new laws and
increased pressure on educators have deterred many from entering the field.
A Journal & Courier survey found enrollment at Purdue’s College of Education
has fallen 23 percent over the past five years, while Ball State’s Teachers
College has seen a 32 percent decrease in applications since 2008. Indiana
University’s School of Education has seen a 20 percent drop in applications
since 2008, and enrollment there is down 11 percent from last year.
"People don’t want to be a teacher because they either think teachers aren’t
doing a good job, or they’re telling us what to do, or now they have all
this pressure on them. I just feel it’s not very attractive,” said Melissa
Colonis, a Tecumseh Jr. High School math teacher who has spent 21 years in
The decline in applications stems in large part from a wave of education
changes that emerged from the 2011 Legislature. Their goal is to increase
teacher and school accountability, but many teachers feel they’ve come under
fire unfairly and are being blamed for failing schools. The political
rhetoric that has polarized both sides of the education overhaul arguments
“Our biggest critics are the ones who are making the most sweeping
statements about failing schools, and they’re the very same ones saying what
we need to do to improve schools in this country is attract the best and
brightest,” said IU Dean of Education Gerardo Gonzales. “I don’t think they
understand the decisions they’re making are having the reverse effect.”
The changes include a new requirement for annual teacher evaluations, part
of a program that ties teacher pay to student performance.
School districts have adopted evaluation models in which teachers identify
their lowest-performing students and develop ways to help those students
improve and gauge their progress.
Gov. Mitch Daniels said the system might not be perfect but that it’s a
starting point for discovering the best way to evaluate teachers.
He’ll get to see how the policies are affecting higher education when he
takes over as Purdue’s president in January.
“There’s an enormous opportunity for any college of education which chooses
to excel in these areas,” Daniels said. “Think of all the great research
waiting to be done. What is the most fair and accurate way to evaluate
teacher performance? What are the best ways to reward or recognize that? For
the school that decides to align with that, I think, there’s a huge
But officials at teachers colleges say the law change has had a stifling
effect on established educators, many of whom are reluctant to bring student
teachers into their classrooms. Deans at Purdue, IU and Ball State say some
teachers are afraid a student teacher could negatively impact their
students’ learning and, in turn, the teacher’s evaluation rating.
Maryann Santos de Barona, dean of Purdue’s College of Education, said the
lack of student teaching opportunities prompted Purdue to scale back
admissions. But the drop in enrollment is larger than intended, and she
blames the law change and negative media attention surrounding the field of
John Jacobson, dean of education at Ball State, said the Indiana Department
of Education sent out a letter cautioning teachers who were planning to
accept student teachers to work closely with universities to ensure that the
students don’t negatively impact the teacher’s rating.
Ball State saw local superintendents start to back away from accepting
student teachers, but it responded by outlining an approach called
co-teaching in which the load is shared between the established and student
teachers. Purdue and IU are adopting similar models.
“That letter did have an impact initially,” Jacobson said. “Had we not been
prepared to come back (with co-teaching), we would have many more schools
saying we don’t want to take student teachers. That is a reality in the
Gonzales said the new evaluations send a mixed message by de-emphasizing the
link between advanced degrees and higher pay. In the past, teachers could
get more money by earning a master’s degree.
“New teacher evaluations now disallow, or at least discourage, the use of
master’s degrees as a factor in teacher raises,” Gonzales said. “So here we
are saying we need better educated teachers — and we’re passing legislation
that discourages master’s degrees among teachers.”
Education department spokesman Adam Baker said such degrees don’t
necessarily translate into a high-quality teacher.
“Degrees and certifications do not guarantee student success,” Baker said.
“So, our concern is with a teacher’s ability to drive student learning and
He notes that Indiana still requires exams to ensure that teachers know
their subjects well before entering a classroom.
Teachers colleges are stepping up their recruitment efforts to compensate
for the decline in applications.
Purdue’s College of Education is looking to hire its first full-time
recruiter and launched a summer camp designed to expose students to careers
IU’s School of Education developed a direct admissions program to streamline
Ball State’s Teachers College launched a study to determine how best to
reach prospective students and has made changes to its curriculum.
Gonzales and Jacobson say the rhetoric about failing schools isn’t helping
their efforts and risks demoralizing educators.
Daniels disagrees and says the old system didn’t perform well. He thinks the
changes should excite teachers and ensure that the best ones are in the
“The teachers we’re going to see these days are drawn to that challenge,”
Daniels said. “Anybody who wants to run from it, I respect their point of
view, but they may not be the best suited.”