ANNAPOLIS – With a more streamlined student transfer process and improved support, community colleges could help provide the state with thousands of teachers to ease a growing shortage, an October report says.
Maryland is one of the few states where educators are already discussing ways to tap into the potential teacher supply at community colleges.
After community college students earn their associate’s degree, they typically transfer to four-year institutions for a bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate. In doing that, students lose credits, prolonging their time in school and costing them thousands of dollars. Educators in the state are trying to change that process.
A report released by the Massachusetts-based nonprofit Recruiting New Teachers stressed the role of community colleges in relieving the teacher shortage. The nation is facing a 2.4 million teacher shortage, a quarter of which could be cut if states used community college resources.
Even without the added support, nearly 600,000 teachers – about 20 percent – began their education in one of the country’s 1,100 community colleges, according to the report.
Maryland alone needs about 9,000 more teachers in the coming years, said John Sabatini, Maryland Higher Education Commission’s assistant secretary for planning and academic affairs.
State colleges and universities produce about 2,500 teachers a year, but only about 1,500 of them decide to teach in the state, he said.
State educators have already begun scouring community colleges for potential teachers.
In 2001, community colleges made it easier for students who earned associate’s degrees in elementary education to transfer to the University System of Maryland’s four-year institutions. Before then, community college students had to know exactly what four-year school they planned to attend after graduation in order to meet its requirements.
Educators now plan to create a similar program by June 2003 for associate’s degrees in secondary education, said Sabatini.
Developing the secondary education curriculum, however, will not be easy. With secondary education, educators must take into account both teaching and specialization requirements. For example, if a student wants to teach chemistry, that student must study both education and chemistry. This difficulty has led to some reluctance among four-year institutions to accept the secondary education associate’s degree. W. Dorsey Hammond, Salisbury University education department chairman, questions whether community colleges have the resources to teach upper-level education courses. The community college role should be to provide students with a general studies background so they can start teaching courses in a four-year institution, he said. Nevertheless, at a conference this month discussing the possible degree, administrators were warming to the idea, said Sheila Allen, Harford Community College’s education programs coordinator.
“Is there resistance? Sure. But you expect that,” Allen said. “Everyone agreed that something has to be done.”
Students studying to be secondary education teachers, the most needed in the state, are often discouraged by not being able to easily transfer to a four- year school, Allen said.
“We need the teachers,” she said. “They (students) want to get out and start getting a salary.”
Increased funding and student scholarships are other ways the state can support the community college’s effort to produce quality teachers, said Recruiting New Teachers CEO Mildred Hudson.
Soliciting teachers from community colleges is also a way to increase the much-needed diversity in the classroom. Because of accessibility and affordability, about half of all minority college students and many low-income students attend community colleges.
Nationally, about 40 percent of students are minorities, but only 13 percent of teachers.
“The community college is a very good resource for the recruitment of the diverse and minority students,” said Ellyn McLaughlin, Anne Arundel Community College director of teacher education. “Maryland has actually been ahead of the game as far as utilizing community colleges.”
Tapping into community college teaching resources is also a “natural retention strategy,” Sabatini said. After five years, about 50 percent of teachers in the state leave the profession. However, community college students tend to be more loyal — working longer in the field and teaching in less- desired urban areas.
“These teachers tend to work in the community they came from,” Hudson said. “You get a double bang for your buck.”