College Leaders Invite Peers To Press for School Reforms

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Washington--Arguing that schoolteachers and university professors are members of a larger "teaching profession," the leaders of 37 colleges and universities last week called on their colleagues to become "champions for the whole educational enterprise."

In an open letter to their peers at some 3,300 U.S. institutions of higher education, the presidents and chancellors said the country was facing a "national emergency" in education. The quality of the schools has failed to keep pace with rising expectations for student performance, they stated in the letter, released at a press conference here.

"[O]ur future as a nation depends more critically than ever before upon the quality of what and how we teach our children," they wrote. ''To maintain and enhance our quality of life, we must develop a leading-edge economy based on workers who can think for a living."

The consensus document, whose authors represent all sectors of higher education, outlines a four-fold strategy to help improve the teaching profession.

The presidents proposed that their peers "speak out" for the importance of teaching at all levels; work with schools and school districts more closely on issues of mutual concern; recruit more members of minority groups into teaching; and improve teacher preparation, if necessary by investing more money in schools of education and holding them accountable for the results.

The seven-page letter grew out of a meeting of the university leaders held earlier this month in Minnesota and coordinated by the American Association for Higher Education and the American Council on Education.

Donald Kennedy, president of Stanford University, spearheaded the initiative, which was inspired by the work of the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy.

Address 'Shortcomings'

The letter warns that before university leaders can become "credible" spokesmen for the precollegiate system, they will have to address ''shortcomings" on their own campuses.

"Only if we are seriously committed to the improvement of teaching in our own houses," it says, "can we speak convincingly about the importance of high-quality teaching in the schools."

The authors pledged to ensure that their students learn the value of teaching, experience good teaching, and learn the fundamental concepts and understandings required to teach a subject to others.

They also promised to give special attention to the "critical" need for mathematicians; the need to ensure that all college graduates have a strong command of written and spoken English; and the need to relate education to career paths.

The university presidents and chancellors argued that they have an "'indispensable" role to play in bringing together college faculty and administrators with superintendents, principals, and teachers.

They pledged to become "personally involved" in creating and fostering such partnerships between schools and universities. One avenue, they suggested, is to appoint master teachers from the public schools to adjunct positions on college faculties.

In addition, the presidents agreed to make their own commitment to minority advancement visible by recruiting minority faculty members, appointing key minority aides, and providing increased financial assistance for minority students.

Efforts to improve college quality, they argued, should focus on higher standards for course completion and graduation, and not on "exclusionary standards at entrance."

Institutions of higher education, they suggested, must also be responsible for reaching out to minority youths in high school and in two-year colleges, with special incentives and support to continue their education.

The 37 chancellors and presidents asked their colleagues to endorse the statement and designate liaisons in their institutions to work with the group in the future. The aahe has agreed to coordinate the project.

Mr. Kennedy signed the statement on behalf of the following chancellors and presidents:

Tomas Arcinieaga, president, California State College-Bakersfield; Richard Berendzen, president, the American University; Elias Blake, (former) president, Clark College; Martha E. Church, president, Hood College; Robert Corrigan, chancellor, University of Massachusetts at Boston; Robert Dickeson, president, University of Northern Colorado.

Paul A. Elsner, chancellor, Maricopa County Community College District Office; Bro. Raymond L. Fitz, SM, president, University of Dayton; Norman Francis, president, Xavier University of Louisiana; David W. Fraser, president, Swarthmore College; E.K. Fretwell Jr., chancellor, University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Donald Gerth, president, California State University-Sacramento.

Frederick S. Humphries, president, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University; Philip H. Jordan Jr., president, Kenyon College; Kenneth Keller, president, University of Minnesota; Sr. Dorothy Ann Kelly, president, College of New Rochelle; Reatha Clark King, president, Metropolitan State University, State University System of Minnesota.

C. Peter Magrath, president, University of Missouri; Robert H. McCabe, president, Miami-Dade Community College; Russell Nelson, president, Arizona State University; Dennis O'Brien, president, University of Rochester; Percy Pierre, president, Prairie View A & M University; John Porter, president, Eastern Michigan University.

Sr. Joel Read, president, Alverno College; Earle Richardson, president, Morgan State University; Sr. Janice Ryan, president, Trinity College, Vermont; Steven B. Sample, president, State University of New York at Buffalo; Robert A. Scott, president, Ramapo College of New Jersey; Ruth G. Shaw, president, Central Piedmont Community College.

Hoke Smith, president, Towson State University; Kala Stroup, president, Murray State University; Sr. Elizabeth Sueltenfuss, president, Our Lady of the Lake University of San Antonio; William Sullivan, president, Seattle University; P. Michael Timpane, president, Teachers College, Columbia University; Barbara S. Uehling, chancellor, University of California-Santa Barbara; Robert Woodbury, chancellor, University of Maine System Office.--lo

Vol. 07, Issue 03

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