The Elementary Teacher Licensure Program (ELTP), a program offered in the education department for students pursuing certification in early elementary education, will be phased out in the next three years. As a result, the incoming class of 2026 will no longer be able to participate in the program.
In response to the decision, students have been voicing their concerns regarding the lack of support for the department and the consequences this discontinuation can potentially bring to students’ future plans on becoming an educator. Organizers for Wellesley Students of Education created a petition calling for support for the teaching licensing programs, the hire of one more tenure track faculty member in the education department and increased transparency about the administration’s decision to sunset the ELTP. As of April 18, the petition has garnered 373 signatures.
According to Dean Michael Jeffries, dean of academic affairs, the program is being phased out, so that the College is “able to offer sustainable academic programming that most closely reflects the demonstrated interests of our students.” In a statement to The News Dean Jeffries wrote that all current students who have declared interest and made significant progress towards the elementary education license will be able to complete it. According to the education department’s website, the program is closed to students graduating after 2025, though Bella Perreira ’24, who helped organize the petition, said it would be almost impossible for current first-years to complete the program before it is phased out.
Jessie Cohen ’25, who wants to pursue a career in early childhood education, was part of the program when the administration announced that all elementary school-related content will be closed due to low enrollment.
“I am still planning to complete my licensure, but it is definitely frustrating as a student in the education department who is passionate about this work to see that the administration does not really understand why it’s important,” Cohen said. “The administration told me in a meeting that if I want an elementary school teacher degree, I can get a master’s, but that’s a huge financial burden on students, and they do not seem to realize how difficult it would be for some.”
ELTP is one of three possible licenses students may obtain by participating in the Wellesley Teacher Scholars Program, and students do not necessarily need to declare an education major or minor to participate in the program. Along with the high school and middle school programs, it allows students to graduate with a teaching certificate/license, which is not offered to many undergraduate students. According to the directory, seven current students have declared Teaching and Learning Studies minors, four of them in the Class of 2022.
Especially for some underclass students, the program and early education courses were a fundamental part of pursuing studies in elementary education, and the decision has been impacting future plans they set for each academic year. First-years and sophomores hoping to complete the ELTP will have to alter their schedules to fit in all the 300 level classes required as they will no longer be offered after the 2022-2023 academic year.
Several are finding that this conflicts with their original four year plans. Destidy Perez ’24, for example, was hoping to study abroad in the spring semester of her junior year in Japan, while completing the majority of necessary elementary education courses for her major beforehand. However, this is now no longer an option.
“I wanted to study abroad next year with my friends in the spring because I have taken multiple Japanese courses, but now I can’t,” Perez said, adding that it wouldn’t be the same if she studied abroad her senior year. “It would have been so nice to go to Japan with people I have continuously taken classes with and have seen me grow … I do not know how to tell my Japanese professor who has seen my growth in the language and planned this whole study abroad plan with me.”
Cohen also expressed concerns for the incoming Class of 2026, as she messaged a prospective student who planned on attaining the elementary licensure in Wellesley.
“I was talking to a girl who is part of the incoming Class of 2026 this fall, and she told me her plans on an elementary licensure at the College,” Cohen said. “But I had to be the one to tell her that it is no longer offered, when the licensure program was one of the major reasons she committed to this school — and there are still a lot of prospective students who do not even know about this decision yet.”
According to Perreira, the College intends to inform incoming students who expressed interest in the program that it will no longer be offered. For current first-years and sophomores, the education department and academic deans are attempting to find programs at neighboring institutions that would allow students who are currently enrolled in the program to finish it.
In efforts to oppose the discontinuation of the elementary teacher licensure program, Wellesley Students of Education recently wrote a statement and put together a petition, aiming to circulate information to the public and prospective students. Students emphasized greater transparency and increased support for the education department, and for the administration to release specific details behind the recent decision.
“I don’t understand why they are taking away this program and not following up with an investment of resources in the education department,” Perez said. “To take away a program that is meant to create teachers that will help the future and society feels backwards to me. I really believe early education is extremely important because it’s what sets up kids to love to learn. I’m not saying that the end of this program is an end to early education, but it is making it less accessible to us when this is one of the things that the school promised to students.”
Perreira believes the phasing out of the elementary education program stemmed from a broader under-appreciation of the education studies department. The department was formed in 2019, with the first cohort of students graduating with an education studies major in 2020, according to data from the Office of Institutional Research.
As reported in the Wellesley Directory, the number of students who have declared education studies majors has increased, with 22 in the Class of 2022, 15 in the Class of 2023 and 10 in the Class of 2024.
According to Perreira, unlike departments with similar numbers of declared majors, the education studies department only has one tenured track faculty member, Professor Soo Hong. According to Dean Jeffries, “he Education Department will search for a new tenure-track faculty member in Education Studies during the ’22-’23 academic year, with the hope that we are able to welcome a new tenure-track faculty member to the department in fall of ’23.”
Correction on 4/26: An earlier version of this article did not include the statement from Dean Jeffries.