Report: Fewer students studying to be teachers

Posted 2/16/20

A report released by the Tennessee State Board of Education shows a disturbing decline in students pursuing a career in teaching over the last few years. 

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Report: Fewer students studying to be teachers


A report released by the Tennessee State Board of Education shows a disturbing decline in students pursuing a career in teaching over the last few years. 

Released on Friday, the Educator Preparation Report Card rates educator programs from 39 institutions across the state. Created by the Tennessee Legislature, the report was redesigned in 2016 to change the 1-4 scale to a type of 1-3 scale, where institutions excel, meet or do not meet expectations.

Amy Owen, director of policy and research, said the report was redesigned and published online based on feedback from future educators to refocus on what would be most beneficial to them. 

"These enhancements make the report card easier to use for individuals who want to become a teacher, whether that's a high school student making a college decision or an adult looking to change careers," she said. 

Among the 39 programs scored, Bryan College in Dayton and South College in Knoxville were the only two programs that did not meet state expectations. Southern Adventist University in Collegedale did not receive a score due to insufficient data. 

In Tennessee, 3,674 future teachers were enrolled in the 2014-15 school year. During the 2016-17 year, that number dropped to 3,312, and again to 3,063 during the 2017-18 academic year. 

With the decline in educators earning their license, Strategic Communications Consultant Elizabeth Tullos said the BOE has also noticed programs are becoming more rigorous. 

“I think we really see, when we start looking at our measures of teacher retention, the percentage of folks who are being retained for a second and a third year in Tennessee public schools, that tells us that folks are coming out well prepared and their districts are wanting to retain them,” she said. 

Lee University and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga were among the majority of schools who met expectations, but were not excelling by state standards. 

Of Lee University's three-year cohort of 437 teachers, 54% reported being employed in a public school system within the first year after graduation. Just over 78% of those teachers said they were still employed  after three years.

Just over 68% of the graduates were Tennessee residents, and a map shows that the majority of graduates are currently employed in the Southeast Tennessee area, others going as far as Nashville and Memphis. 

At UTC, 73% of its 466 graduates said they found employment in public schools within a year, and 79% of them are still employed in the public school realm.

Tullos said the number of first-year employed graduates does not count educators who go on to teach for private schools, inevitably lowering the rate of first-year employment. 

The report card also looks at the type of training offered in each program, recording the percentage of graduates who completed student teaching, internships or job-embedded professional development. 

At Lee University, around 70% of students reported training through student teaching, 20% in internships and under 9% in job-embedded training. 

At UTC, 92% of teacher training is done through student teaching, and the rest falls under job-embedded training. 

Full reports are published online at


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