Twenty-three years ago, The Rolling Stones played the first ever concert at Spartan Stadium. Twenty-three years ago, a stern assistant coach named Tom Izzo was a year away from taking over the MSU men’s basketball team. Twenty-three years ago, the Michigan State University College of Education was ranked No.1 in the nation.
A lot has changed in 23 years, but the college’s reputation has not. MSU boasted the top secondary and elementary educational institution in the nation throughout, according to U.S. News and World Report rankings.
U.S. News & World Report also ranked seven other MSU College Of Education graduate programs in the top five — for their respective tracks — and eight in the top 10. The college also boasts the No. 1 rehabilitation counseling program in the nation.
“Our college takes great pride in the continued high rankings of our graduate programs,” said Robert E. Floden, dean of the College of Education, in a press release. “These results are a testament to the leading role so many of our faculty and alumni play in improving education research, policy and practice.”
Terrance Range, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Higher, Adult, & Lifelong Education, said the rankings were merited. The program is internationally recognized, he said, for its research and faculty innovation that redefines classroom teaching — especially with a fresh focus on urban communities.
Regardless of consistently high rankings, teaching teachers is not easy.
New teachers face a world of falling salaries, large class sizes, job insecurity, and long hours without overtime pay. Recognizing the trend, fewer and fewer students decide to pursue a teaching career.
“There are more and more districts now that cannot fill their classrooms with certified teachers,” said Michigan Education Association spokesperson David Crim.
Crim said that the problem was an “epidemic” in Detroit and was spreading across the state, as education colleges’ enrollment declines of about 40 percent portended more of the same bad news.
At MSU, the stats confirm Crim’s statements. Compared to the past five years, 661 less students were enrolled in the MSU College of Education in 2017. In that same time span, the university grew by more than 1,000 students.
Crim blamed disinvestment in public schools — and thus a stagnation in teacher salaries — for the trend, pointing at the Michigan legislature as the culprit.
Still, however, MSU officials remain optimistic about the program’s appeal.
Adam Davis, an admissions counselor at MSU, said that the program’s reputation helps bring prospective teachers to MSU. Students often come up to him at college fairs knowing that they want to pursue a career in education, and he just has to help fill in the details.
“Usually students I speak with, they have sought out education already, and they are saying to me, ‘hey, I read about your education program. I know it’s highly ranked,’” Davis said. “That’s when I tell them all the different things they can do.”
Those options are unique to MSU’s program. The College of Education puts students on a five-year track, with the final year being a student-teacher experience at a local school. The immediate placement often serves as an internship to launch a student’s education career, providing more than 1,000 hours of on-the-job work.
MSU also offers study abroad opportunities and two distinct specialization programs: urban education and global education. In an urban educator’s focus, students learn about social justice issues, while in the global educators field, students deal with matters of multiculturalism.
Davis said even with worrisome vocational signs, MSU’s education program remains a cherished and integral thread in the school fabric.
“We’re a land-grant school,” Davis said. “We’ve always been about access. I don’t know that you could be a school that’s about access without providing a program of education.”