College of Education to undergo revisions in coming years

Courtesy / GVSU College of Education

Courtesy / GVSU College of Education

McKenna Peariso

Grand Valley’s College of Education undergraduate education programs will be seeing some changes in the next few years. These changes come directly from the state of Michigan who have requested that all teacher education programs be revised no later than 2021. Most of these revisions will be reflected in coursework that is specialized to the grade bands students are studying to teach. 

“COE and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ curriculum is changing to meet the needs of the newly designed grade bands,” said Associate Dean for the College of Education Caryn M. King. “Specifically, different grade bands will emphasize different content areas based on the needs of children and adolescents.”

According to the Michigan Department of Education, there are five grade bands consisting of pre-kindergarten to grade three, grades three through six, grades five through nine, grades seven through 12 and pre-kindergarten to grade 12. These grade bands were created to specialize content area coursework and fieldwork for each specific grade band and the requirements it has. 

Grand Valley’s College of Education undergraduate programs include elementary education, which allows graduates to teach all subjects from pre-kindergarten to grade five and the major subjects in grades six to eight, secondary education, which requires a secondary major as an emphasis, as well as special education and elementary with a Spanish endorsement. 

“The COE is a nationally accredited college,” King said. “With national accreditation we constantly engage in ongoing program improvement based on data. We have a robust data collection and analysis system we use regularly to monitor our teacher candidates’ progress as they matriculate through the program. Two significant changes we have made is we are now offering undergraduates an Early Childhood minor and an English as a Second Language minor as additional options.”

This analysis has resulted in a reworking of these education programs to provide students with teaching experiences that are unique to the grade band they want to teach. These changes come from the Michigan Department of Education, who are aiming to become a top ten education state in the next decade and believe these revisions can help achieve that. The revision also comes from a recent decline of educators in the state of Michigan.

“There is beginning to be a teacher shortage in Michigan and across the country as interest in becoming a teacher has drastically declined,” King said. “Most likely this is due to high expectations of teachers, low salaries, reduced benefits and teacher accountability systems that are tied to student achievement.”

Michigan’s teacher shortage has been concerning districts across the state, with the Michigan Department of Education publishing a critical shortage list of open positions in multiple districts. While a big part of this shortage is low salaries and benefits with high expectations, there is also a difficulty for college students to pursue a degree in education as it is commonly a five year commitment. For some, the longer program length can deter them from seeking out a degree in education, sometimes due to monetary issues or time restraints. Part of this revision will make an effort to shorten some of the program by removing courses that do not fall into a students designated grade band.

“We are designing more streamlined programs with fewer credit requirements that can be completed in under five years,” King said.

These revisions are still in the process of being applied to the program and there is currently no set date to when the new programs will be administered to education students. While the College of Education continues to examine and apply new changes and ideas to their programs, these revisions that come from the state of Michigan will hopefully help specialize courses for students. By specializing programs, shortening degree time and focusing on the needs of students, perhaps these revisions can help bring more quality teachers to Michigan.