Report Urges State Colleges To Upgrade Training of Teachers
State colleges and universities should return to their roots and take decisive steps to reinvigorate their teacher-training programs, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities advocates in a report scheduled for release this week.
Nearly nine months in the making, the report urges the presidents of the association's more than 375 institutions to exert their leadership to ensure that teacher training receives the attention and resources it needs to become an active participant in the education-reform movement.
In outlining a five-point action agenda, "Teach America," which was to be released in San Antonio at AASCU'S annual meeting, the group also seeks to elevate the status of teacher education and to improve its quality.
AASCU's report is seen as particularly noteworthy given the fact that member institutions are responsible for training more than half the nation's teachers.
While some colleges of education have begun to take steps to improve their teacher-training programs, many teacher educators maintain that their reform efforts have often been stymied.
They note that schools of education often occupy the lowest rung on the campus status ladder and that they typically lack the support of their institutions' leadership.
The AASCU report marks the strongest signal to date that the nation's college presidents are taking seriously pleas from education leaders that they become direct players in promoting education-school reforms on their campuses.
"Some say that we have forsaken good instruction for research and publishing and that presidents are doing little more to solve the problem than paying it lip service," Robert E. Glennen Jr., the chairman of the Presidents' Commission on Teacher Education, which prepared the report, writes.
"Many skeptics doubt that our leadership can make a difference or that we will be willing to lead in teacher-education reform," Mr. Glennen, the president of Emporia State University in Kansas, adds. "But our commission is convinced that in spite of the obstacles we face on and off our campuses, presidents can initiate changes that will restore the dignity, stability, respect, and effectiveness of teacher education in our democratic society."
'Recapturing a Heritage'
Created last February, the 16-member commission of university presidents began its task by reviewing reform literature and consulting with both educators and policy-makers.
Although AASCU has in the past formed teacher-education committees, Mr. Glennen said in an interview that the association's board of directors was drawn to the commission concept in the hope that it would prove analogous to the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.
The Knight commission has been credited with spurring numerous reforms in college sports.
"If we can get presidents more intimately involved," Mr. Glennen said, "we can move forward with some real action on campuses."
For the most part, AASCU's member institutions began as teachers' colleges, or normal schools. Through the years, their mission has broadened to the point where they are now comprehensive regional universities offering a variety of bachelor's and master's degrees.
"What we're saying is maybe it's time now, with the national agenda relating to education reform, to recapture that heritage and put some effort and concentration on teacher education again," Mr. Glennen said.
Some states have also been ahead of the institutions in seeking the colleges' return to their teacher-training roots.
In 1977, for example, the Kentucky Council on Higher Education developed a series of mission statements that clearly delineated the roles of its eight state institutions, according to Norman L. Snider, the agency's director for communications services. Five of the eight are expected to have teacher education as their primary responsibility.
'Spinning Out of Orbit'
Originally a part of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, AASCU went its separate way years ago.
"When they spun off from AACTE, they spun right out of the teacher-education orbit," David Imig, the executive director of AACTE, said.
"I'm encouraged by this," added Mr. Imig, noting that, for true re- form to occur, "the president has to play a role."
Moreover, Mr. Imig said he hoped the report would have reverberations beyond AASCU and be followed by efforts by such other higher-education organizations as the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges.
Arthur E. Wise, the president of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, said the report signals universitywide commitment to the improvement of teacher education.
"The quality of teacher education depends not only on professional and pedagogical studies, but on the quality of academic and liberal studies," Mr. Wise said. "The latter require the energies of the total faculty of the university or the college."
"It's unfortunate not all faculty members have seen the importance of preparing teachers for P-12 education," he added. "This report suggests that the presidents need to place teacher education higher on their list of university priorities, and that is a very welcome development."
The AASCU report's five-point agenda calls on presidents to:
- Ensure high priority and visibility for teacher-education programs;
- Promote and ensure total quality teacher education;
- Connect teacher education to the K-12 schools and their communities;
- Promote diversity in the teaching profession; and
- Recognize their leadership role in responding to the challenge of the Bush Administration's America 2000 education-reform plan and the national education goals approved by the President and the nation's governors last year.
Among the specific actions to meet the goal of linking teacher education with K-12, for instance, the report recommends providing a "quality setting to showcase model teaching practices in laboratory schools, professional-development schools, America 2000's 'new American schools' and progressive K-12 schools.
Under the diversity agenda, the report suggests that presidents encourage state and local officials to create loan-forgiveness packages and to seek additional scholarships for minority students.
In addressing the issue of quality, the commission urges its members to improve such quality-control measures as admissions and exit standards and to require "rigorous and mandatory program content."
The commission anticipates continuing its work beyond the report. Plans are under way to convene a national conference next summer and to establish an AASCU office for teacher education.
Vol. 11, Issue 13, Pages 1, 15