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Education

Holmes Committee Will Clarify Aims, Processes

By James Hertling — January 10, 2020 2 min read

SAN FRANCISCO--After initial meetings here last week with representatives of some of the 123 universities invited to join the Holmes Group, members of its steering committee said they planned to write a letter to all 123 to clarify the group’s organizational aims and processes.

Reaction among those institutions to the consortium’s report advocating radical changes in teaching and teacher education was “generally supportive and interested,” according to John R. Palmer, dean of the school of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and vice chairman of the group.

But “there are a lot of organizational questions to clarify,” he said following off-the-record briefings with invited institutions during the invention of the American Educational Research Association.

Mr. Palmer added that the group--a coalition of education deans from leading research universities--does not intend to make any substantive changes in the plan issued April 7.

The Holmes Group now formally includes only its 14-member steering committee, which is chaired by Judith E. Lanier, dean of the college of education at Michigan State University. The group invited at least one leading public university in each state and one institution for every 25,000 teachers in five regions--South Central, Southeast, Midwest, Northeast, and Far West.

Once fully constituted, the Holmes Group, while a national consortium, will be organized along those regional lines. The group is urging universities that seek to join the group to pay their initial annual membership fee of $4,000 and submit their intentions to participate in the reform effort by July 1. This date, however, does not constitute a hard deadline, since many universities’ faculty members may not have a chance to consider the group’s proposals before then.

Indeed, said Mr. Palmer, the work of selling the plan now must be done on campuses; others pointed out that it must include faculties from disciplines beyond education. Holmes Group members would pledge, for example, to upgrade liberal-arts training for future teachers.

Organizational Questions

Among the key organizational questions the steering committee’s letter will address, according to Mr. Palmer, are: the roles of the regional groups, the function of the national organization, flexibility of the July 1 deadline, faculty involvement among invited universities, and the “internal governance” of the group.

The group is planning an August meeting for the schools that join by July 1 and intends to hold a national conference in November.

At the A.E.R.A. meeting, the presidents of the two major teachers’ unions both called the consortium’s recommendations a “positive” development. But Mary Hatwood Futrell, president of the National Education Association, criticized the three-tier structure of the teaching profession proposed by the Holmes Group. “We would not be able to support a proposal where only 20 percent would be able to get to the top,” she said. She seemed to concur with the recommendation that teacher education “may not be a four-year program anymore.”

Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called it “very positive.” He said, “it makes teaching closer to other professions.”

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