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Few Shifts Seen in Education-School Curricula

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By Kirsten Goldberg

Despite tightened admission and certification standards, little substantive change has occurred over the past five years in the curriculum used to prepare teachers in the South, according to a report to be released this week by the Southern Regional Education Board.

The report, to be presented at the June 20 annual meeting of the board in Nashville, Tenn., compiles the results of a survey of deans of arts and sciences and education at public colleges and universities that prepare teachers in the 15 states that belong to the S.R.E.B.

Since 1981, all of the S.R.E.B. states have strengthened matriculation standards in teacher-training programs, the study found. In addition, each state has raised certification or recertification requirements for teachers; about half now determine whether to "approve'' a college's teacher-preparation program based on the performance of its graduates.

The deans surveyed characterized these new standards as "the most significant change in teacher education in this decade.'' The study found, however, that there has been little change in the general education, subject-matter knowledge, and professional-education courses required of prospective teachers.

Most college and university leaders have spent little time on teacher-education reform, the survey found. Only one in six deans could name one change that had taken place in teacher education as a result of action by the central administration.

"It seems fair to say that on the campus, the initiation of significant efforts to improve the education of teachers usually has been left to teacher educators,'' the report says. "All too often the dean of education is likely to be the only formal campus leader promoting change.''

The report, "Is the Education of Teachers Changing?'' is a summary written by the S.R.E.B. staff of a more detailed study by Vanderbilt University researchers to be released later this month. The researchers, Willis D. Hawley, dean of the George Peabody College for Teachers at Vanderbilt, and two assistants, approved the S.R.E.B. summary, said Mark D. Musick, the board's vice president and director of state services and information.

In addition to the survey, the researchers visited six college campuses to develop case studies of the role of college presidents, academic leaders, and faculty in teacher-education reform.

According to the report, most state policies aimed at improving the education of teachers have been regulatory in nature. But it cautions that relying on regulation as the "primary means'' for inducing change may prove problematic in the long run, because "its capacity to motivate is largely limited to those standards that can be defined easily or simplistically and enforced readily.''

Schools More Selective

Among the changes that have taken place in the South's schools of education, according to the researchers, are these:

  • Teacher-education programs are more selective. Half of the colleges and universities reported accepting a lower proportion of applicants.
  • A majority of institutions reported increases in the number of graduates preparing for elementary- and middle-school teaching, but the reverse was true for secondary-school instruction. Forty percent produced more secondary teachers, and 44 percent produced fewer secondary teachers.
  • Enrollments in teacher education appear to be increasing, but the number of minority students is declining. Only 22 percent of the colleges reported increased enrollments of nonwhite students, while 44 percent reported declines.
  • A growing number of institutions are increasing the number of general-education courses required for all types of certification, as well as the number of professional courses (although a few states have limited education coursework); 64 percent of the colleges had increased requirements for classroom experience.
  • About two-thirds of the colleges require candidates for secondary-level teaching to major in a subject other than education, but few require a different major for elementary- or middle-school candidates.

Pace Quickening

The pace of change in teacher education is increasing in most states, according to the researchers, but demands for change have not been accompanied by resources.

At the same time, they report, little change has occurred in several areas. Among their findings:

  • The introduction of written tests to screen applicants for teacher education and certification appears to have had little impact on the curricula of the colleges, except at historically black institutions.
  • Little effort has been made in most colleges to link the content and process of liberal-arts courses with those of education courses.
  • Efforts to integrate liberal-arts instruction with teacher-training programs are due mainly to the efforts of individual faculty members rather than to institutional commitment, except at some historically black colleges.
  • S.R.E.B. states have not mandated programs requiring a post-baccalaureate year of study prior to entry into the profession and have supported reform within four-year programs.

Copies of the report are available for $4 each from the Southern Regional Education Board, 592 Tenth Street N.W., Atlanta, Ga. 30318-5790.

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