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April 10, 2024

No. 1 for 30 years

MSU’s College of Education tops U.S. News rankings for elementary, secondary education

Michigan State University's College of Education has ranked No. 1 in the nation for elementary and secondary teacher education for 30 straight years, according to U.S. News & World Report. This achievement marks the longest-running No. 1 designation in any field at MSU.

So how does a college achieve — and maintain — that standing?

“We always innovate and engage in high‐quality research, teaching and outreach that makes an impact and promotes the public good,” says Dean and MSU Research Foundation Professor of Education Jerlando F. L. Jackson. “We work with and for our local, national and global communities to create meaningful change for learners of today and tomorrow.”

While a No.1 ranking indicates excellence, it is just one accolade for a college of education with a long-standing record of focusing on practical classroom experience, strong partnerships with the state, nationally recognized faculty, influential research and an emphasis on preparing educators who can meet the needs of today’s classrooms. Excellence, and success, are also measured in the stories of Spartans.

A person with shoulder-length hair and a wristwatch is energetically reading aloud from a book to an audience, not in the frame. They are wearing a dark cardigan and rings on their fingers. The book cover features playful illustrations, possibly related to children's literature. In the background, a large paper is mounted on the wall with various colorful visual aids, suggesting an educational or classroom setting. Another individual, partly out of focus and facing away from the camera, is seated nearby, engrossed in reading or studying a document with a vibrant pattern.

Leading in PK-12 schools

Spartan educators are continuing to move the needle through teaching and groundbreaking research. Education alums from the past 30 years — enough to fill the Erickson Hall Kiva close to 20 times — live in all 50 states. Nearly 74% chose to stay and contribute to Michigan's success — eight of whom have been named Michigan Teacher of the Year. Nearly one in three have pursued a second or even third degree from MSU.

The retention of Spartans in Michigan is vital, as the state experienced a 17% rise in teaching vacancies from 2021 to 2022 according to a 2023 report from MSU’s Education Policy Innovation Collaborative, or EPIC, the strategic research partner of the Michigan Department of Education.

For undergraduate learners, the college’s renowned Teacher Preparation Program stands out for its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Through specialized curricula like the Urban Educators Cohort Program and the Global Educators Cohort Program, students gain the knowledge needed to teach in diverse communities and contexts. Participants also engage in specialized field excursions to enhance their learning and real-world application of classroom work. MSU is the only school in the Big Ten to offer such cohort programs.

“The Global Educators Cohort Program introduced me to a justice-oriented way of teaching,” says Madison Payne, an Elementary Teacher Preparation Program alum and cohort participant. “The program prepared us to educate our students about global issues and engage them in meaningful ways that serve me today.”

The Teacher Preparation Program was reimagined in 2023, transitioning from a five- to a four-year program. The change will address the teacher shortage by preparing Spartan educators faster and saving those same students thousands in tuition — all while maintaining MSU’s long-held strengths in this program.

The college offers 28 degree-granting programs in education. Nearly 90% are graduate-level programs, which are recognized by the annual U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools in Education rankings. The college offers five additional degree-granting programs in the Department of Kinesiology.

In the same U.S. News rankings, MSU has maintained a No. 1 ranking in curriculum and instruction for six straight years. In the latest rankings, MSU was also named No. 1 in higher education administration and educational administration. It is the first time that five program areas have been ranked No. 1 in the same rankings. Nine program areas are ranked within the nation's top 10 in their respective categories, underscoring the breadth of excellence and reputation of MSU’s programs.

To learn more about the impact Spartan educators are having in classrooms, explore the Ingrained series, which captures the journeys of Spartan educators who have become catalysts for positive change in PK-12 classrooms across the state of Michigan.

A person stands confidently with their arms crossed in the center of a vibrant school hallway, flanked by rows of lockers in varying shades of blue. They are wearing glasses, a patterned top, and a military green jacket, accessorized with hoop earrings and a pendant necklace. The background features colorful student lockers, educational posters, and a string of orange spherical decorations, suggesting a lively and dynamic educational environment. The focus on the individual, their attire, and the setting indicates their role may be significant within this school community.

Shaping the future of teaching

College of Education faculty are integral to preparing tomorrow’s teachers. These world-renowned scholars — 31% of whom earned at least one degree from the college — often teach at the undergraduate and graduate levels. They also oversee collaborative research projects with students and graduates.

Learn more about the impact Spartan educators make in K-12 classrooms across Michigan through the Ingrained campaign.

This research changes the way educators think about and deliver instruction. For example, several projects led by College of Education faculty focus on improving learning environments for students studying science. A recently completed $5.5 million grant developed ways to boost students’ engagement by training teachers nationwide on how to embed student motivation strategies in their lesson plans.

A $2.2 million grant is creating free K-2 science literacy lessons to help kids learn to love science. In 2023, MSU faculty launched a $7.7 million grant project to reimagine chemistry and physics lessons for high schoolers in rural environments.

These examples are a selection of ways MSU research is impacting PK-12 schools nationwide. There are dozens of other examples related to mathematics, languages, cultures and more.

“The College of Education prepares you to step into a classroom with the confidence and tools you need to give students what they need for their educational journey,” says Candice Jackson, 2023 Michigan Teacher of the Year.

College of Education faculty are recognized leaders in the field. From 2015-20, college scholars edited the Journal of Teacher Education, one of the most widely read journals in the field. In 2017, MSU launched EPIC, which has since garnered over $20 million in funding. In 2020, MSU became the institutional host for the University Council of Educational Administration, a national organization focused on enhancing educational leadership through research and training.

Peers also recognize MSU faculty for their contributions. Eight current faculty are American Educational Research Association Fellows, including three who received this designation in 2024. Twelve alums hold this top honor in the field of education. Beyond the college’s body of research, its offices and centers also cultivate personalized partnerships and create programming and workshops to expand knowledge with schools, community organizations, nonprofits and more.

At the forefront of all this work is the college’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. In 2016, the college began offering professional education to help schools, colleges and other organizations achieve more equitable and inclusive cultures. The initiative has since grown into the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Partnerships led by Associate Dean Terry Flennaugh, who heads several supportive programming options and student group activities for current and prospective students, with the goal of helping all Spartans feel supported in their learning journeys.

“This college’s diversity programming has allowed me to enter college with the needed support to start, and I know I will continue receiving support to help me pursue my college degree,” says Aja McAllum, a Teacher Preparation Program student. “From job opportunities and making me aware of programs and events to attend, to introducing me to research and the chance to network and meet influential people, the DICP office has been a huge help.”

A diverse group of individuals is posed together, smiling, on a wooden bench structure outdoors. Many wear shirts in varying designs, all sporting the Michigan State Spartans logo, suggesting they are students or supporters of the institution. The group is framed by lush greenery and the trunk of a large tree, indicative of a campus setting. They appear to be relaxed and happy, conveying a sense of camaraderie and school spirit. The arrangement of the individuals, casual clothing, and the university insignia emphasize a collegiate atmosphere and possibly a student group or team.

Empowering innovation in a changing world

Students come prepared to learn and leave prepared to lead.

There are 3,485 students pursuing education degrees across the college, 25% of whom are graduate students. They participate in programs that consistently reinvent to meet the needs of the discipline and its students. Since 2019, five graduate-level programs have been created or restructured in the college — with more innovative changes to come. One example is the Master of Arts in Learning Experience Design program, in which students will create well-informed and powerful learning experiences, informed by the critical lenses of equity, accessibility and social justice.

Beginning this summer, the college will offer the Educational Doctorate of Leadership for Equity-Minded Change in Postsecondary Education — a three-year program intended for working educators who aspire to leadership roles in higher education. The college’s highly ranked and newly restructured Counselor Education and Supervision doctoral program will prepare Spartans to work as counselor educators, supervisors, researchers, practitioners and leaders in academic and clinical settings.

Students within these programs have dreams of leading in classrooms, nonprofits, governmental agencies, communities and more. This diverse body of Spartans is not just preparing to educate the next generation; they are shaping the field and building on a legacy of excellence.

The College of Education and its scholars continuously evolve the curriculum to reflect the latest in educational research, technology and pedagogy.

“Innovative, justice-focused, evidence-based and humanizing approaches will always be at the center of what we do,” says Department of Teacher Education Chairperson Dorinda Carter Andrews. “When you have a group of people who are deeply committed to these principles, it allows for an environment where ideas flourish and tomorrow’s educational challenges are met with ingenuity.”

By: Lauren Knapp, Marco Schimizzi and Deon Foster

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