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Teacher Colleges Told Future Depends On Ties With School Boards, Unions

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Detroit--Representatives of the nation's colleges of education, who have faced critics in all quarters recently, encountered a new one here late last month--themselves.

At the 35th annual convention of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (aacte), speakers among the more than 3,000 officials meeting contended that teacher-training schools have thus far been ineffectual in countering the continuing public criticism of their programs.

"It's our own fault that we're being put down," said Jack Gant, dean of education at Florida State University and aacte's president. "We've been too soft in sitting back and accepting criticism. We have to take the initiative before education schools are run out of business.''

Mr. Gant cited the recent closings of education schools--at Case Western Reserve and Duke University, among others--as well as the reorganization of the program at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Michigan's current examination of its department of education for possible elimination.

Outside Pressure

"There is unbelievable pressure from the outside on education schools," he said, "and we've been guilty of bending to that pressure. Our tendency has been to circle the wagons when we're under attack and draw into ourselves without fighting back."

Instead, Mr. Gant said, schools of education must begin building coalitions with local school boards, education unions, and veteran teachers. He called on his fellow education-school deans to "use our allies'' to fend off attacks from critics.

While Mr. Gant was calling for a public-relations campaign for education schools, others at the convention were calling for programmatic changes.

Edward Simpkins, dean of education at Wayne State University, said the time has come for education schools to "break out of the four-year college mode."

Mr. Simpkins, whose own department is up for review, said education schools should sever their ties with undergraduate programs. He said teachers should be trained in graduate professional schools, just as doctors and lawyers are.

"We see that the way it is now, working in tandem with liberal-arts colleges, isn't working," Mr. Simpkins said. Asked if it was unreasonable to ask moderately paid teachers to attend expensive graduate schools, Mr. Simpkins said, "Well, I'm talking about restructuring a lot of things, including the salaries and public image."

Declining Number of Blacks

Mr. Gant and others at the convention expressed alarm over the declining number of blacks entering teaching. They said that increased use of standardized competency tests is hastening that decline. (See Education Week, Jan. 19, 1983.)

From 1975 to 1978, the number of black teachers in the United states dropped 13 percent, a rate of decline twice that for all teachers.

Elaine Witty, dean of the school of education at Norfolk State University in Virginia, blamed the decline on desegregation, increased opportunities in other fields, seniority systems that defeat affirmative-action plans in a tight economy, poor grade-school preparation, and, most recently, increased use of competency tests for admission to teacher-training programs. Such tests, she said, discriminate against minorities and bilingual students.

Added Mr. Gant: "The aacte believes that every child in a pluralistic society has a right and responsibility to, at some time, have a teacher from a culture different from his or her own. If this trend continues, that will not be possible."

Mr. Gant said the association does not oppose testing, but it also does not believe any one measure should be used to screen teachers.

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