University Helps Ease Substitute-Teacher Shortage
Who says teacher-educators are out of touch with the public schools?
In Oshkosh, Wis., members of education school faculty at the University of Wisconsin's campus there have agreed to work as substitutes in the public schools.
As in many districts nationwide, a strong economy and the availability of full-time teaching jobs have drained the Oshkosh schools' pool of substitute teachers.
When the school year started, the 10,600-student district had just 50 substitutes on its list, down from its usual 100. Barbara Herzog, the assistant superintendent of instruction for the Oshkosh schools, turned to the university for help.
Donald Mocker, the dean of the college of education and human services, 13 other faculty members, and a graduate student have all pledged to teach at least one day a month.
Ms. Herzog said the university teachers "will be a great help to us," but the district still has had to limit teachers' professional development as it scrambles to augment its substitute ranks.
Teacher Training: Teachers' knowledge is the focus of a four-year, $525,000 grant to the Council for Basic Education.
The money will support a project to strengthen new teachers' skills and grasp of their subjects.
The council, a Washington-based organization that advocates strong academic standards for students, is collaborating with the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education in the effort.
The association, also located in the nation's capital, represents the interests of 724 institutions that graduate about 90 percent of all new teachers.
The STEP initiative, which stands for Standards-based Teacher Education Project, is being pilot-tested in Georgia, where professors at three universities are redesigning their courses and requirements to get them in line with higher state and local standards.
It also has been expanded to four campuses in Maryland: Coppin State College, St. Mary's College of Maryland, Salisbury State University, and Towson State University.
Over a three-year period, teams of university faculty members and precollegiate teachers will use K-12 standards and new teacher-assessment requirements to redefine their preparation programs.
The project is expected to expand next year to states that are working in partnership with the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future, which released a report in 1996 calling for a well-qualified teacher for every classroom through greater investments in teachers' knowledge and skills.
Education Reform: Of course, not everyone agrees on how to improve American education.
In a challenge to what they see as a repressive status quo, a group of teachers, politicians, and policy experts came together last month to issue a "letter to the American people" calling for an end to compulsory teacher unionism and the public school "monopoly."
The letter is the product of a national summit of teachers in July, sponsored by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a nonprofit research institute with a free-market outlook based in Midland, Mich.
"We must free teachers from restrictive rules, regulations, and mandates that require the use of unproven theories and the uncalled-for agendas being forced on them by distant bureaucrats and special-interest groups," says the letter, released at a Washington press conference by John Taylor Gatto, a two-time Teacher of the Year in New York state, and Tracey Bailey, the 1993 National Teacher of the Year.
The document calls for the elimination of monopoly bargaining, exclusive union representation of teachers, and requirements that nonmembers pay fees for services.
New Leadership: The Holmes Partnership, a national network of research universities and school districts working to improve teacher education and schooling, has chosen new leaders.
Richard Kunkel, the dean of the college of education at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., is the partnership's executive director.
Mary Hatwood Futrell, the dean of the graduate school of education and human development at George Washington University in Washington and a former president of the National Education Association, is the chairwoman of the board.
Nancy Zimpher, the former board chairwoman and now the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is president.
Vol. 18, Issue 6, Page 6