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A Pipeline
Running Dry:

Trends in Teacher Preparation Programs

According to the Frontline Research & Learning Institute, teachers with zero to three years of experience make up over half of school districts’ applicant pools. That’s a sizeable chunk of the applicant pool, and one that stays full thanks to teacher preparation programs.

But we also know that many high school and college students say they don’t want to be teachers — and that could put your school district’s future applicant pools at risk.

So, it’s crucial that education leaders keep a close eye on the pipeline of new teachers.

We’ve compiled data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education to explore trends in teacher preparation and uncover what district leaders should expect when recruiting new educators in the years to come

What the Data Shows:


Source: U.S. Department of Education, Title II Reports: National Teacher Preparation Data. Last updated February 2021.


While the student population has grown in 32 states, teacher preparation programs haven’t kept up. From 2010 to 2016, only six states have seen an increase in the number of new educators coming out of teacher preparation programs. Meanwhile, the rest of the U.S. has seen new teacher pipelines fall by over 30 percent nationally, with nearly 66,000 fewer new teachers graduating in 2016 than 2010.

The future isn’t looking too cheery, either — only Texas, D.C., and Washington state have seen an increase in teacher prep program enrollment. If your school district is in or near one of those regions, you might have a deeper pool of new teachers to recruit from soon. However, only Washington and the District of Columbia have seen both teacher prep enrollment and completion numbers rise.

What about your state? Move your cursor over the interactive map to the right to see how teacher preparation programs’ enrollment and completion numbers have changed.


Source: U.S. Department of Education, Title II Reports: National Teacher Preparation Data. Last updated February 2021.


Looking even further back, it becomes clear that this downward trend started during the Great Recession — and despite the passage of time, it has yet to be reversed.

In the graph to the right, the purple line represents the total number of individuals who completed teacher preparation programs from academic years 2000-2001 to 2019-2020. This includes those who completed traditional programs, as well as those who finished an IHE or non-IHE-based alternative program. The green line is broken out to show only the number of individuals who completed a traditional teacher preparation program.

As we can see, traditional teacher prep programs continue to graduate fewer new teachers every year, except for an ever-so-slight uptick in 2020. And while alternative prep programs work hard to fill the gap between teacher supply and demand, they fill only a fraction of the new teacher pipeline.

Tip: Use the filter to the right of the graph to drill down and see your state’s data. Please note that some years’ data were not reported by a small number of states.


Source: National Center for Education Statistics. IPEDS: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Last updated March 2019.

* Note: This map does not include data from the University of Phoenix’s online program, which conferred nearly 60,000 education degrees from 2012 to 2018

Regional Trends

The next map shows the number of bachelor’s and post-baccalaureate degrees in Education awarded by accredited institutions from 2012 to 2018. If you’d only like to look at specific years, you can use the slider on the right to change the timeframe.

As you might expect, sources of new teachers aren’t evenly distributed across the country. The Midwest and East Coast tend to have smaller colleges preparing new educators throughout the region, while the West tends to rely more on larger public universities like Boise State and Arizona State to prepare larger classes of new teachers. There are also a few online institutions that are responsible for awarding a large number of education degrees, such as Ashford University, Western Governors University and the University of Phoenix. It’s worth noting that although these degrees are recorded as being conferred where the college is based (such as California for Ashford University and Utah for Western Governors), their students could be located anywhere in the country.

Surprisingly, universities in Puerto Rico also award a large number of degrees in education — which might make it an attractive option for recruiting far afield.

What You Can Do:

At the end of the day, the decline in teacher preparation program enrollment can’t be reversed by one person, or even one district. It will take widespread societal changes: a renewed appreciation for the teaching profession and higher teaching wages (and therefore more funding for K-12) would be a solid start.

But there is plenty that you can do to position your district for success and continually fill positions with the best candidates.


Partner with teacher preparation programs.

If you haven’t already, partner with local universities and other teacher preparation programs to build relationships with future educators and keep your applicant pools full. Don’t wait until they’re looking for student teaching opportunities to reach out — see if you can meet with undergraduates early in their college years. Take the opportunity to show them that teaching is a wonderful profession — especially in your district.

In addition, you may be able to work with local teacher prep programs in developing a “Grow Your Own” program to help non-licensed staff members earn teaching certifications. You may find that this type of program helps build your hiring pool and improve retention. After all, these are people who are already familiar with your school district and have settled in the community.


Review your recruiting strategies.

Knowing that the pool of new teachers will likely continue to shrink, consider ways to improve your recruiting reach. Look for opportunities to get your job postings in front of more people, such as advertising on more job boards like K12JobSpot or your district’s social media pages. Recent graduates tend to be technologically savvy and use the internet to find new jobs, so recruiting online is a pretty safe way to build your applicant pool.

Beyond casting a wider net for applicants, you will also want to recruit qualified applicants proactively. Again, the internet offers the perfect chance to reach out to talented new teachers and showcase why they should want to work for you.

Good news: Frontline’s proactive recruiting tools make it easy to put your district’s best foot forward and reach more job-seekers.


Be more competitive with a faster, easier hiring process.

You can expect fierce competition for qualified teachers as the student population grows and fewer new educators enter the workforce. So, take a long, hard look at what it’s like to apply in your district from the candidate’s perspective. Is it frustrating or time-consuming? Does it take weeks for candidates to hear back, if they ever hear back at all?

Don’t let your hiring process hold you back — strive to hire more quickly and be more responsive to applicants than neighboring districts. Take advantage of technology like Frontline Recruiting & Hiring to streamline applications and communicate more easily with applicants.


Explore new retention strategies, particularly for new teachers.

Retention and recruiting go hand-in-hand. If new teachers leave your district after just a few years, you’ll find yourself right back at square one. Focus on retention strategies that keep the best educators in your classrooms and help them improve continuously. A strong commitment to supporting teachers’ professional growth will improve retention and benefit students — a win-win all around.