Death by a Thousand Cuts

Colleen Flaherty, writing for Inside Higher Ed, recently wrote an article about the problems facing teacher education programs within our nation’s universities. Excerpts from the piece appear below:

The University of South Florida shocked faculty members with its recent decision to close its College of Education, which has a large undergraduate population, and retain only a graduate program. The University of California, Davis’s teacher education program staved off a planned suspension due only to widespread outcry. Experts say that education programs — long devalued on and off many campuses — are under even greater threat in an era of COVID-19-related budget cuts.

“Education programs have been at risk for a while, and COVID exacerbates the risk … It’s another cut in a death by a thousand cuts,” said Francyne Huckaby, professor of curriculum studies at Texas Christian University and president of the Society of Professors of Education.

What’s to become of other teacher education programs in the COVID-19 economy? Jones, of Boston University, said that on one hand, a case “could be made that education as a field of study will grow more attractive,” especially to “highly qualified candidates who may not have historically considered teaching.”

On the other hand, Jones said, there has been an “existential threat facing colleges of education for several years.” It’s therefore “easy to foresee that a crisis like the current one might accelerate declines in enrollment.” Shrinking cohorts of teacher education candidates may also “provide a rationale for universities to reduce faculty or close altogether” when forced with making “hard decisions.”

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