This week is WGU's semi-annual academic meetings. We're almost getting too big for the conference center we've been meeting at, with about 700 people attending.
Today one of the presenters talked about a particularly difficult problem facing the teacher education programs. An important component of licensure is student teaching, and true to form, WGU has a different term for it: demonstration teaching. Regardless of what you call it, placing students in schools is becoming more difficult, and I imagine it's the same for schools across the country.
With the economy down, people are out of work, so they go back to school to either be better positioned to find a job now or to at least find a better job when the big recovery happens, so enrollments are up. Budgets in the states are down, so teachers are laid off, meaning there are fewer classrooms in which the increased number of teacher candidates can be placed.
Add in the pressures of NCLB, and a whole new challenge appears. In schools that are struggling to maintain AYP, teachers may decline to take on a student teacher because of the extra burden it imposes and the chance it could cause problems for their students' scores. For failing schools, well, it's not really an option to student teach at a failing school.
Unfortunately, I don't know what the solutions are. A change to NCLB seems like a good place to start.