Education majors, teacher retention rates continue to see statewide, national decline
According to Wisconsin Public Radio, the number and share of new college graduates with a bachelor’s degree in education has continued to decrease over the last few decades. The decline has occurred despite an increase in overall people and share of people who have obtained a college degree.
Nationally, bachelor’s degrees in education awarded by colleges and universities were down 19% in 2019–20 compared to 2000–01; those degrees made up about 4% of the total undergraduate degrees issued in 2019–20 and around 8% of those issued in 2000–01.
Department of Public Instruction data from 2021 shows 5,391 people graduated with teaching degrees in Wisconsin, but only 3,618 of those became teachers in the state. UW–Whitewater issues the most teaching licenses in the state and has 1,500 undergraduate students majoring in education.
Retention rates for Wisconsin teachers are 67% after their first five years, and only 16–18% are under 30 years old.
Research from 2022 found the Milwaukee Public Schools system was down around 230 teachers, and the Madison Metropolitan School District had 140 vacant teaching positions. Those vacancies exist despite the fact that UW–Madison’s School of Education has grown its overall number of students in teacher education programs by 10% since 2020, when the school launched its Teacher Pledge. The program pledges to pay the equivalent of in-state tuition and fees, testing, and licensing costs for all teacher education students. In return, the student must work at a Wisconsin school for three to four years post-graduation.
Factors contributing to the recent declines in education majors and teacher retention include high levels of stress, low or stagnant wages, and concerns about ideological and political arguments surrounding classroom curricula, among other challenges.