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Release: June 21, 1999

UI president leads charge to improve teacher education programs

IOWA CITY, Iowa--The presidents and chancellors of 62 leading North American research universities have adopted a resolution proposed by a committee chaired by UI President Mary Sue Coleman that identifies K-12 teacher education as a critical higher education priority and commits their campuses to improving their teacher education programs.

The resolution was adopted by the Association of American Universities (AAU) during its annual spring meeting in Washington, D.C. The Association represents both public and private research universities, 60 in the U.S. and two in Canada.

Specific actions called for in the AAU resolution include:

*more fully integrating teacher education and professional development programs into the rest of the university;

*making possible and encouraging the certification of appropriate disciplinary majors as teachers and exploring the development of sound alternative certification routes;

*recognizing and strengthening the role of graduate programs in providing leaders for K-12 schools and in preparing future college and university faculty who will teach the next generation of teachers;

*making more research experiences available to current and future elementary and secondary school teachers, especially in the areas of math and science;

*better utilizing institutional research capabilities to improve teaching and learning in teacher education programs;

*recognizing and acting on the knowledge that teacher preparation is inherently a partnership, and creating and sustaining stronger ties with schools, state departments of education, intermediate service providers, and employers in preparation of teachers;

*creating and sustaining stronger programs of continuing education for teachers and integrating such programs with initial preparation programs; and

*providing the kind of educational experience to all students that would attract more of them, including those who have not been advantaged by present systems, to teaching as a career option.

"Parents and communities are rightly concerned about the quality of teaching in their local schools," said Coleman, who chairs the AAU committee that proposed the resolution. "While there are many factors that affect learning in elementary and secondary schools, certainly a major responsibility ultimately rests with those of us at the university level. In order to ensure that the problems of elementary and secondary schools are addressed to the full, our association is pledging to do its best to provide teachers with the leadership capabilities and teaching skills that are needed to address those problems."

Coleman, in conjunction with the UI College of Education, has made it a priority to recognize Iowa’s top K-12 educators through a Distinguished Teacher Award. This year Coleman personally bestowed the honor on four teachers from across the state. In addition to an award, the teachers’ schools received a $1,000 grant from the UI for school equipment and teaching materials.

AAU current chairman Steven B. Sample, president of the University of Southern California, said the AAU’s U.S. member universities educate about 10 to 15 percent of the nation’s new elementary and secondary school teachers each year. "However, our universities also educate most of the Ph.D.s who staff the teacher education programs at the rest of the nation’s colleges and universities; this means we not only play a unique role in teacher education but also have a special responsibility to exercise leadership in this area."

Nils Hasselmo, the president of the AAU, emphasized that the passage of the AAU resolution is only a first step. He said the association will carefully monitor the resolution’s implementation among member campuses, and it also plans to undertake a survey of best practices at member institutions, as a means of stimulating innovation and encouraging information-sharing.