July/August 2017

James Rosborg, Ph.D., is director of the Master’s in Education program at McKendree University and is past president of the Illinois Council of Professors of Educational Administration.

The Illinois Council of Professors in Education Administration (ICPEA) in conjunction with the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) continues to study the impact of the changes in the state rules and regulations, and the impact on the number of candidates going into education in the state of Illinois, both in the teaching and administration areas.

IASB Field Services Director Patrick Rice expanded last year’s survey and received data from a cross-section of 17 universities in the state of Illinois. Besides surveying elementary and secondary educational programs, the survey included early childhood, fine arts, and special education programs. Similar to last year’s findings, the data received is cause for concern.

The new survey’s findings show Illinois continues to experience a teacher shortage not only in elementary and secondary education, but in all teacher education programs of study. The survey results also indicate there is a lack of diversity in the candidate pool.

As reported in the original “From rigor to reality” (March/April 2016 issue of The Illinois School Board Journal), the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) raised the minimum standards needed to pass the Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP), formerly the Basic Skills exam. The goal was to increase teacher rigor. Since that 2010 change, the results show that teacher and administrator candidate numbers dramatically went down with the jury still being out as to the improvement of candidate quality.

Research in the area of principal preparation shows 1,742 new graduates in principalship in the last six years. ICPEA estimates there have been around 2,800 new principal job openings in the past six years. The number of job openings does not even include openings in other administrative positions like assistant principals, deans of students, directors, department chairs, and assistant superintendents. The research shows that there is a direct correlation: Having fewer teacher candidates directly impacts the number of administrative candidates.

ISBE believed that making the teaching admission test more rigorous would yield higher student achievement outcomes, but we feel this effort has had an adverse effect. It is estimated that to pass the TAP test would require an equivalent of 26 on the ACT. As previously reported, ISBE has added another possibility of meeting basic skill requirements by having a 22 composite on the ACT along with passage of the writing component. Ironically, ISBE believes students should be admitted to teaching programs based on how well they performed on a standardized test, but agrees with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) federal statute that schools should be judged based on multiple indicators of assessment as compared to single indicator assessment tests. Logically, why should the same not hold true for educators? As former State Superintendent Chris Koch of Illinois once stated, “I would argue probably in the United States, we’re testing too much.” One could conclude that these efforts have led to a diminished focus in fine arts, physical education, gifted, and vocational programs throughout the United States.

Under the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the federal government pressured states to ratchet up their requirements to ensure that teachers are highly qualified as noted in No Child Left Behind. As a result, states such as Illinois have made it difficult — by administering rigorous basic skills tests ― for potential teachers to enter the profession. Perhaps now is the time for Illinois to consider changing course to coincide with the philosophy change of measuring schools based on multiple indicators.

In our survey, all reporting universities indicated a significant decline in their teaching programs, ranging from 46 to 70 percent. Regulatory changes made by ISBE have dramatically led to the decline of teacher candidates in educational teaching programs. This especially seems to be true for minority candidates seeking an education degree. Overall, the 17 universities that responded resulted in the following data conclusions regarding minority education degree seekers in 2016:

  • Elementary: Out of 1,114 candidates, there are 88 African-Americans, 64 Asians, 117 Hispanics and 15 multi-racial candidates. There are a total of 135 male candidates and 984 female candidates.
  • Secondary: Out of 758 candidates, there are 56 African-Americans, 46 Asians, 89 Hispanics and nine multi-racial candidates. There are a total of 353 males and 405 females.
  • Early Childhood: Out of 308 candidates, 78 African-Americans, 21 Asians, 34 Hispanics and nine multi-racial candidates. There are a total of 11 males and 297 females.
  • Fine Arts: Out of 355 candidates, there are 32 African-Americans, 18 Asians, 39 Hispanics and eight multi-racial candidates. There are a total of 175 males and 180 females.
  • Special Education: Out of 418 candidates, there are 36 African-Americans, 11 Asians, 38 Hispanics and two multi-racial candidates. There are 82 males and 336 females.

The graph to the right gives a more global look at our minority candidate percentages at the 17 responding universities that represent a cross-section but not all universities statewide.

To gain further input from university professionals throughout the state, the survey asked two open-ended questions in the comment section. The following answers were cited for Question 1, “Why did your number of candidates decrease?”

  • Responses to the first question from the 17 universities indicated the new basic skills (TAP) test has led to significant decreases in candidates pursuing teaching programs.
  • We are still seeing passage rates around 23 percent with significantly lower scores for African-Americans and Hispanics on the TAP test.
  • The rising costs of education — tuition, testing, background checks for both field placements and student teaching, transportation costs, and Illinois’s disinvestment in higher education.
  • Lack of MAP grants has dramatically impacted students from a lower socio-economic background and lowered enrollment across the board.
  • Perceived poor pay and working conditions along with a national emphasis on testing and teacher blaming.
  • Increased difficulty of state required content area tests and edTPA.
  • Lack of an Illinois budget that has led to lack of financial aid, grants, and scholarships.
  • School district budget problems has limited employment opportunities causing a decrease of those going into the profession.
  • Beginning in January 2018, elementary or secondary candidates seeking to obtain their middle school endorsement must complete an additional 32 credit hours as opposed to taking a block of classes approved by the university. This exemplifies a continued regulatory philosophy leading to diminished numbers in the field of education.

For Question 2, “What changes, if any should be made for university students entering education programs?” the following responses were cited:

  • Change the requirement of the TAP test so that an individual only has to pass the content area to which they are teaching (i.e. math) instead of passing in a four areas. Make the test a valid and reliable measure of teacher quality.
  • Offer financial incentives to students who major in teacher preparation programs. Focus on getting more minorities in the profession.
  • Publicize the projected teacher shortage in the near future.
  • Reduce the costs in the areas previously mentioned — tuition, testing, background checks, etc.
  • Establish university childcare centers for children of students.
  • Look at the negative macro professional issues that have been enhanced by the media and governmental leaders that are driving down interest in teaching as a profession.

It is time for action to deal with the shortages of candidates at both the teacher and administrative level. Substitute teacher shortages are already causing huge academic problems statewide as schools deal with overcrowded classrooms and administrators having to fill teaching positions on a substitute basis. ICPEA and IASB will continue to work with educational associations throughout Illinois to bring researched facts to increase the overall candidate pool and strengthen the overall professional quality of the education workforce. It is time for leaders in the state of Illinois to look at the current regulatory rules and make the proper adjustments using the research at hand to again enhance the field of education.


Dr. Rosborg’s previous “From rigor to reality” appeared in the March/April issue of The Illinois School Board Journal, and is available at

ISBE’s educator licensure requirements are accessible starting here:

Also referenced in this piece is Vanishing School Boards: Where School Boards Have Gone, Why We Need Them, and How to Bring Them Back by Patrick Rice, Ph.D.