New teacher certifications in Florida halved in five years
By Marilyn Bowden
New teacher certifications statewide continue to nosedive to barely half the level of just five years ago, and some local programs that train teachers report lower enrollments this year.
While certification renewals have remained fairly consistent over the past five years, first-time certifications dropped precipitously. State figures show they've retreated from a high of 25,485 in 2005-'06 to a low of 13,785 last year.
At the end of 2009-'10, 37,105 certificates were renewed statewide. The year before, 37,976 were.
Florida educators are required to renew certification every five years at the end of the school year
According to the Florida Department of Education, during the current school year Miami-Dade County employs 293,824 educators with valid Florida certificates, up slightly from last year's 292,863.
Local colleges and universities with education programs report some falloff in interest.
Dr. Susan Neimand, director of the school of education at Miami-Dade College, which graduated its first class of teachers in 2005, said the program's enrollment dipped for the first time this year.
"Between 2006 and 2008, we had an enormous influx of students," she said. "Our program grew by 119%. The following year was the beginning of some changes.
"Although in 2009 we were holding steady, this is the first year we saw the beginning of a small decline.
"We believe it has to do with the bad press that teachers are getting and everyone saying there are no teaching jobs. But our grads are being scooped up even before they graduate."
Barry University's Adrian Dominican School of Education is also seeing a downturn in undergraduate education majors, said Dean Terry Piper.
"It may be the result of Miami Dade College, which is a community college, opening up an education department," she said. "In a private college such as ours, students have to be really sure what they're going to do with their degree in the end.
"It used to be that doctors and teachers would always find work. Teachers can't count on that anymore."
On the other hand, Dr. Piper said, "our graduate enrollments are booming — the highest ever. We don't think it's driven so much by salary as a genuine want to learn."
Enrollment in the Department of Education at the University of Miami — also private — has remained fairly stable, said Shawn Post, associate dean and an associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning.
"It's a very small number because we are not a public institution," she said. "We have about 120 majors in elementary through secondary education, or about 40 graduates every year."
Nearly all began their studies in other majors, she said, and switched to education later in their college careers.
"There has been some increase in secondary education programs," she said, "now that we offer a PTO, or Professional Training Option."
The PTO allows students in other fields to take the secondary-education coursework required for certification, she said, so that once they graduate "they don't have to go to a boot camp to get training. They just have to do a paid internship."
UM just got a major grant that will allow its education graduates to be certified in both elementary and special-education programs, Dr. Post said, "and that should increase enrollment as well."
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