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Column One: Teachers

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Teams led by the presidents of 35 public colleges and universities will meet in Washington this month to develop a national agenda for improving teacher education.

The conference, sponsored by the American Association of State College and Universities and the Digital Equipment Corporation, grows out of AASCU's "Teach America'' initiative, announced last fall. (See Education Week, Nov. 27, 1991.)

The idea is to encourage institutions that began as teacher-training schools to renew their commitment to preparing teachers.

Participants will think about what schools will look like in the future, decide what teachers should do in them, and develop strategies for teacher-education and retraining programs.

The suggestions will be used by AASCU's Presidents' Commission on Teacher Education to propose a national policy on teacher education.

Adam Urbanski, the president of the Rochester Teachers Association, has proposed to his members that the union create a new "Leadership for Reform Institute'' with a portion of a proposed dues increase.

If approved, the institute would focus on topics chosen by teachers and develop a set of principles to guide reform.

Creating such an institute, Mr. Urbanski says, would give school reform the same prominence within the union that contract enforcement and economic benefits now have.

It would also allow teachers to be "agents of reform, and not just targets,'' he says.

Eventually, the union president says, he hopes that the idea will spread to other affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers. Like-minded districts could then swap teachers in a form of "sanctioned espionage'' to get ideas for improving schools from one another.

Despite widespread agreement that greater parental involvement helps students do better in school, a new study of 27 Minnesota teacher-education programs has found that few colleges and universities in the state are offering courses designed to help new teachers work with parents.

The study by researchers at the Center for School Change at the University of Minnesota concluded that only eight of "hundreds'' of undergraduate teacher-preparation courses "clearly focus on increasing the active role of all parents for the benefit of K-12 students' learning.''

Most of the courses that did refer to parents, the study found, were special-education or early-childhood classes that actually taught parenting and child-rearing skills.

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