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New AACTE Report Tracks EPP Response to COVID-19 and Racial Injustice Crises

Fall 2020 Member Survey CoverIn October 2020, AACTE invited the chief representatives of its member institutions to complete a survey on how the twin crises of COVID-19 and racial injustice had affected their educator preparation programs and how they have responded to these crises. AACTE conducted a similar survey in April 2020, asking members about the immediate impact of COVID-19 on their educator preparation programs. A new report, released during the 2021 Annual Meeting, summarizes results from both surveys, tracking the evolving response of EPPs to these twin crises. 

Key findings include the following:

  • The impact of COVID-19 on fall 2020 enrollment in education preparation programs, while significant, was not as severe as respondents anticipated in spring 2020. In April, only 6% of respondents anticipated that COVID would have no impact on new student enrollment for fall 2020. In October, when respondents could report on actual enrollment, 33% stated that there had been no impact on new undergraduate enrollment and 56% reported no impact on new graduate student enrollment.
  • While the decline in enrollment was not as dramatic as feared, there have still been substantial impacts on educator preparation programs. Forty-five percent of respondents have experienced budget cuts of 1 to 10%, and 38% have seen their budgets decline by 11% or more. Half of the respondents have had to reduce staff, with reductions in the number of adjunct faculty being most common.
  • When AACTE surveyed members in April 2020, virtually all respondents had transitioned to completely virtual instruction. By October 2020, the majority of respondents (56%) were operating under a hybrid model that combined in-person and virtual coursework and a substantial minority (31%) were still holding classes completely or primarily online.
  • When respondents to the fall survey were asked to name the most significant challenge related to COVID, clinical practice was the third most commonly named topic after declining enrollment and budget cuts. A significant source of that challenge is shifting state requirements. In the spring, most members reported that state requirements for student observation or practicum, student teaching or clinical field experiences, and performance assessment were either modified or waived due to COVID-19. By fall, far fewer members reported such changes to state policies.
  • In the spring, virtually all clinical practice occurred virtually and 44% of members reported that at least some of their PK-12 partners had suspended placements. In the fall, 81% of members reported at least some face-to-face placements, and only 4% reported no clinical practice for candidates.
  • The fall survey asked several questions about how institutions generally, and educator preparation programs in particular, reacted to increased calls for racial justice. Most members reported that their institutions were taking steps to assist students through services such as counseling and mental health hotlines. Common activities to promote a just and equitable campus environment include forums, faculty professional development, recruitment of diverse faculty, and investment in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Notably, despite budget cuts, most schools, colleges, and departments of education reported they implemented their own initiatives to provide faculty professional development, promote DEI, and recruit diverse faculty.

As the nation continues to recover from COVID-19, and to confront the critical issue of racial injustice, AACTE will periodically survey its members to understand how educator preparation programs are managing in these challenging times.

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Jacqueline E. King, Ph.D.

AACTE Consultant