New research from Michigan State University’s Education Policy Innovation Collaborative, or EPIC, examines how the pool of prospective Michigan teachers changes as candidates move through the preparation pipeline from K-12 education into the workforce. The report highlights ways that Michigan loses potential teachers even before they enter the workforce, which represent “leaks” in the pipeline.
The report examines students’ course enrollment decisions throughout their time in college and finds that students who completed their education in more recent years were less likely to have taken any teacher education courses. About 15.1% of Michigan high school graduates who started college in 2010-11 took an education course by 2014-15, while only 12.7% of those who started college in 2017-18 took an education course by 2021-22. Of the students who took an initial teacher education course, 77% continued with more advanced courses in this area but only about a quarter became student teachers.
The pool of prospective teachers also becomes less diverse as candidates progress from college to teacher licensure to the workforce. Twenty percent of students in 100-level teacher education courses are non-white, decreasing to 15% of students in 400-level courses, 10% of student teachers and less than 7% of early career teachers working in Michigan public schools. This means the group of candidates being prepared for the teacher workforce in Michigan is less diverse than the K-12 student population. Only 7% of Black students, 14% of Asian students and 23% of Latino/a students who take an initial education course eventually become student teachers, compared to 30% of white students. This suggests that many students of color who are interested in teaching ultimately choose other career paths.
However, these trends may be starting to improve for new cohorts of students who are still in college. Teacher preparation programs across the state have reported increases in enrollment in the last few years, as well as increases in the diversity of candidates enrolled in their programs. These changes follow substantial efforts and investments that the Michigan Department of Education, state legislature and governor have made in recent years to strengthen and diversify the teacher workforce.
“Michigan has generated five years of increases in the numbers of students preparing for careers in education in educator preparation programs, from 9,512 in 2016-17 to 14,829 in 2021-22, the highest level since 2013-14,” said State Superintendent Michael Rice. “Over the past seven years, from 2015-16 to 2022-23, Michigan has increased by 1,316 the number of Black/African American full-time equivalent, or FTE, teachers and by 216 the number of Hispanic/Latino/a FTE teachers. During this same period, the number of all teachers of color increased from 6,613 to 8,367 in the 2022-23 school year, from 8.2% to 10.2% of all Michigan teachers. While welcome and hard-earned increases, we know we have more work to do collectively in the state on issues of teacher quantity, preparation, quality and diversity. Research on various aspects of the teacher pipeline can help us strengthen the teaching profession in support of our children.”
The report also finds that in recent years, candidates who complete a teacher preparation program and receive a teacher certification are more likely to accept positions in Michigan’s public school system and tend to remain in the profession longer. And despite losing Black teaching candidates at the highest rates during preparation, those who do become certified are more likely than any other group to work in Michigan public schools. Black teachers also have the highest rates of persistence in the profession over the first five years after becoming certified to teach, with 44% remaining as teachers for at least five years compared to about 38% of newly certified white and Latino/a teachers and 20% of newly certified Asian teachers.
Tara Kilbride, EPIC’s assistant director for research and author of the report, said the research makes it clear that Michigan loses prospective teachers at every stage of the pipeline and these “leaks” contribute to the lack of diversity in Michigan’s teacher workforce.
“These results underscore the importance of policy initiatives and programs that can reach candidates earlier in the teacher preparation process,” Kilbride said. “Policymakers should continue to promote alternative pathways to teaching that have been shown to help diversify the workforce, but also work on improving traditional pathways to better serve prospective teachers of color.
“Having a healthy and diverse teacher pipeline goes beyond just recruiting more people into teacher preparation programs,” Kilbride said. “It is also critical that new and prospective teachers have the training, resources and support they need to succeed and stay in the profession.”
Additional EPIC research on the teacher workforce is available online.