Cavazos To Name Teacher-Training Adviser
Chicago--In a move expected to give teacher education a higher profile at the federal level, U.S. Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos has announced that he will appoint a special assistant to advise him on teacher-training issues.
Mr. Cavazos' announcement came in a speech to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which met here last week.
The Secretary also used the occasion to exhort teacher-education programs to do a better job of recruiting and training teachers who are members of minority groups.
And he renewed his advocacy of programs that would enable professionals in other fields to pursue "alternate routes" into teaching.
The new special assistant, as described by Mr. Cavazos, would report directly to the Secretary and be responsible for coordinating all of the Education Department's teacher-education efforts. The adviser would also act as a liaison to the teacher-education community.
Mr. Cavazos said he would fill the position "in the next few months."
The position will be the second such advisory post created by Mr. Cavazos. Two weeks ago, he appointed a Dallas high-school principal to head a similar effort in the area of dropout prevention.
"We will do this wherever there are specific issues that I think we're ready to move to the forefront," the Secretary said in a press conference following his speech.
The creation of the advisory position for teacher education was generally welcomed by conference-goers, who included representatives of some 700 institutions of higher education.
"It's the first significant demonstration on the part of the Administration that teacher education is4important," said Penelope M. Earley, aacte's director of policy development and public and governmental relations.
Some participants also noted, however, that the significance of the position will depend largely on who gets the job and how much responsibility that person is given.
"I'm not sure how much significance just having a person there would have," said Thomas LaBelle, dean of the school of education at the University of Pittsburgh.
Mr. Cavazos said the advisory post was part of a proposed $400-million effort on the part of the Bush Administration to improve teacher training. He said that the President, in his 1991 budget, had requested a 38 percent increase in funds for 11 federal programs that support teacher training.
But some experts here said such projected funding levels were overly optimistic, because they included spending levels for programs not yet authorized by the Congress, such as the alternative-certification program included in Mr. Bush's proposed "educational-excellence act."
Mr. Cavazos' remarks came in a wide-ranging speech on teacher education to the group, which represents colleges and universities that prepare teachers.
A large portion of the speech focused on the need to attract more minorities into the teaching profession. The Secretary noted that only 10 percent of teachers are members of minority groups, while about 30 percent of all schoolchildren are. He also warned that the pool of minority teacher-education candidates is shrinking.
"This means that many of our children will never get the benefit of exposure to minority teaching professionals during their growing years," he said.
In an effort to address that problem, Mr. Cavazos said, he is working with a task force comprising the leaders of several national education groups, including aacte. He added, however, that no "concrete proposals" to solve the problem would be immediately forthcoming from his office, and that schools of education should not wait for the federal government to take the lead in this area.
One way to tackle the problem, Mr. Cavazos suggested, is for schools of education to do a better job now of training prospective teachers who are members of minority groups.
"The high rates of failure experienced by minorities on state teacher-certification exams may be due in part to the lack of rigorous training and standards at some colleges of education," he said.
The Secretary said colleges of education can also assist non-minority teachers in working with the growing population of children from differing ethnic backgrounds by requiring every teacher-education candidate to learn a second language.
And, noting that many of the teachers entering the profession through alternative-route programs are members of minority groups, he called on schools of education to offer courses of study that complement such nontraditional programs.
On another issue, the Secretary called on education schools to lobby their states to "free up" some of the requirements that constrain teacher-education programs.
"What we need are consistent requirements flexible enough to permit the innovation demanded by restructuring strategies," he said.
To aid that effort, Mr. Cavazos said the department would soon host a conference on the topic with governors, chief state school officers, and other "key players" in teacher education.