Deans Endorse Extended Programs, Higher Teacher-Training Standards
Colorado Springs--An organization of education-school deans representing many of the nation's largest teacher-training programs last week endorsed the position that four years is no longer enough time in which to train teachers adequately.
The group then voted unanimously to adopt tough new standards for schools of education that now require--or plan to require--that students complete a five- or six-year program before they become eligible for initial state certification.
The Association of Schools and Colleges of Education in State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, whose 100 members train approximately 25 percent of the country's newly licensed teachers each year, voted to require schools of education that develop so-called "extended" programs to: maintain a student-fac6ulty ratio of 14 to 1; require for graduation at least 150 credit-hours and an internship of not less that 10 weeks; and limit to 20 percent the number of part-time faculty within a school of education.
Dale P. Scannell, a co-author of the new standards and dean of the college of education at the University of Kansas, said the "standards"--which are not binding on the organization's members--were formulated in order to encourage schools of education to adopt extended programs.
"The present four-year model of teacher education is 40 years old, but society's expectations for the education schools have increased tremendously," he said. "We need to say boldly that four years is not enough. These standards focus attention on this issue and set some goals for the [education] schools which choose to shift to an extended program."
The five-member task force that wrote the new standards, chaired by Robert B. Howsam, former dean of the college of education at the University of Houston, did not specify the meaning of "extended."
However, while saying that the shape of such programs is up to individual schools, the task force suggested a five-year program leading to a master's degree or a four-year bachelor's degree in combination with a master's degree as possible alternatives.
The common characteristic of such programs would be that they would require five years of study in education before a student could be recommended for initial certification.
There are currently only two colleges of education in the country that have extended programs. One is at the University of New Hampshire; the other is at the University of Kansas, Mr. Scannell's institution.
Although the task force acknowledged that the standards are more realistically understood as guidelines, many of the deans present asserted that the adoption of them was an important and positive symbolic act.
Said Howard D. Mehlinger, dean of the school of education at Indiana University: "Politically, we may have to live with four-year programs, but these standards demonstrate that we would prefer five."
Standards Are a Signal
Joan S. Stark, dean of the school of education at the University of Michigan, added: "[The standards] are a signal to state legislatures and others who hold the purse strings that they cannot expect us today to prepare teachers in more areas with the same amount of money as in the past."
The deans voted to send the new guidelines to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (ncate) for "review and pos3sible adoption." And Lyn Gubser, executive director of ncate, a non-profit organization that currently sets standards for both graduate and undergraduate teacher-training programs nationally, said there is a "good chance" that the accrediting body will adopt the new extended-program standards.
Mr. Scannell, who is a consultant to ncate's standards committee, also said he thinks the organization will adopt the new standards at some point. He emphasized that the new standards are not meant to replace existing ncate standards because they apply only to extended programs.
ncate, in a major shift in policy, recently approved specific, "quantifiable" standards of its own. (See Education Week, Oct. 12.)
Some of the deans expressed concern about ncate's adopting the new standards because, they said, "few if any" schools of education can now meet the tougher criteria.
M. Stephen Lilly, associate dean for graduate programs at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, protested that if the standards were enforced by ncate, they would endanger many high-quality teacher-training programs that do not happen to meet all the highly specific criteria of the standards.
He also claimed that although extended programs are probably a good idea, the standards are too rigorous to enforce: "We would be recommending to ncate standards that we would not want them to come to our campus and inflict on us."
Many deans acknowledged that faculty resistance, among other reasons, inhibits them from switching from a four-year to an extended teacher-preparation program.
The University of Michigan's Dean Stark also expressed concern about the effect an extended pro6gram would have on enrollment. "How can I get a student to take my five-year program when he can get the same job after graduation by going to a school with a four-year program six miles down the road?" he asked.
Officials at the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, while endorsing extended programs in principle, share Ms. Stark's concern about enrollment and warn that, at a time when enrollments in teacher-training programs have dropped sharply for other reasons, forcing students to pay an extra year's tuition without raising teachers' salaries will further discourage top students from entering the profession.
Others disagree with this position.
Preference in Hiring
William G. Monahan, president of the deans' organization, who is proposing a program at West Virginia University that would admit students into the college of education in the freshman year and require them to complete a six-year "Teaching Doctorate" before the univerisity recommends them for certification, said that many school districts have promised to give graduates of his program preference in hiring and pay them considerably higher starting salaries.
Mr. Scannell said school districts in Kansas have offered to give students in the University of Kansas's five-year program similar treatment.
The deans also endorsed what they described as a "crucial" recommendation of the task force: that they seek support for the extended-program concept among the various elementary- and secondary-school associations.
Said Mr. Scannell: "To make these changes will take the cooperation of more than just education school deans. We alone will not be able to make this come off."