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SPRING 1999
Volume 42, Number 3

IN THIS ISSUE

At Iowa, Those Who CAN Teach

Four Year Grad Plan

Half the World Away from Home

In This Office, Students Come First

Pass the Plastic

Tax Deductions

Summer School?

Creating the Level Playing Field

Expanding E-Mail Network

Parent Times Briefs

Calendar


     

The headlines have been disconcerting recently. Teachers, they say, can't teach very well. Some didn't major in the subject they're teaching. Some can't write well themselves, so their students don't learn to write well.

Parents might well wonder: Will the College of Education at Iowa teach my student to teach? Will he or she be able to get and keep a good job in a good school?

The short answer to both questions is yes, says Richard Shepardson, acting dean of the College of Education. But the longer, more accurate answer is complex. Here's a deans-eye view of teaching the teachers at Iowa.

FIND THE RIGHT STUDENTS
"It begins with admissions," Shepardson says. "We need to admit the right students in the first place. We look at grade-point average to rough-sort the applications, though we do check to see if there is an added dimension to the student who might not have a high grade-point average (GPA) but might add something to our college. Then we look at ACT scores, prior experience, an essay on why the student wants to be admitted, prior course work, and letters of recommendation. It isn't easy to get into the college."

While the minimum grade-point average for the college is a 2.70 (out of 4.0), students in some program areas may not get in if they have less than a 3.00 average because of intense competition for places. The 2.70 requirement is one of the highest of the 31 colleges and universities in the State of Iowa that have teacher training programs.

English education is the most competitive. The college's Language Literacy program, which has a high reputation nationally, admits about one-third of the applicants it receives. Social studies education is next, with 50 to 60 percent of applicants admitted. In these programs, the college is looking for about a 3.40-3.50 GPA and high marks in certain courses.
Elementary education admitted all eligible students until the summer of 1997, when it moved to a competitive-based enrollment. Now an applicant with a GPA over 2.70 may not be admitted, based on a variety of criteria.

The average ACT score of admitted students is 23, higher than the University's average and the average of students admitted to education programs nationally (21). Because of this selectivity, students learn in classrooms filled with bright students. Pushed by their peers, they tend to learn more, Shepardson says.

IOWA'S EDUCATION ADVANTAGES
What draws all these applications to the college? Its strengths include:

· Faculty size (97, teaching about 1,100 students) in a Research I institution.

· Quality of the faculty, which includes many members who are nationally involved in setting standards, developing curriculum materials used across the country, and working with professional organizations.

· A strong curriculum: Because the faculty is involved in research, Iowa's courses tend to be based on theory and understanding, and are rich in technological training that school districts want.

· Because so many excellent teachers want to work in Iowa City, education majors will find their cooperating teachers are highly skilled and often have completed advanced graduate work. These teachers, who supervise practica and student teaching, tend to be very strong mentors and coaches, Shepardson says.

But the college's location is not ideal for an education college, either. "One of the problems we have, being located in a state in which minorities total just over 3 percent of the population, is teaching our students how to teach in areas where that percentage might be 45 percent or 75 percent," notes Shepardson, who taught for 10 years in California.

Iowa City skews perceptions in another way, too. "In the Iowa City area, you may have schools in which the entire population is averaging around the 95th percentile in reading. Our students are sheltered from the real world," he says.

"So we have teacher training programs in Aldine, Texas; Rialto, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada, to give our students an appreciation for the more urban, low-income environment. We recognize that we need to provide more content related to meeting the needs of diverse populations. Some faculty members have addressed that successfully. We need more contact with diverse learners in beginning and middle practica."

Iowa's college also has formal partnerships with schools in West Liberty and Iowa City that involve Iowa students doing practica in their classrooms, direct classroom involvement of Iowa faculty members, and teaching staff development programs.

GROWING ENROLLMENT
Iowa's College of Education has about 1,100 undergraduates, 600 in elementary education and 500 in various secondary subjects. The college had more elementary student teachers this year than the total for elementary and secondary six years ago. Part of the reason is that these seniors are the last class from the time when the college was required to admit all qualified elementary applicants.

A PUBLIC RELATIONS PROBLEM
Considering the national consensus that it's vital to educate our young people, it's puzzling that teaching, as a profession, suffers from a bad image. Students with high grades and scores who choose elementary education may hear, "Oh, that's too bad. You could have done anything."

Curing the perception will require a long, slow process, Shepardson notes. "I think we're moving toward National Standards Board licensure for teachers, and if we get it, we could recognize outstanding teachers. In the long run, that would raise the image. I think it would help if teaching were perceived as a full-time field, not nine months. It's not really nine months now, but the perception is that teachers take summers off. That will take time to change."

Another approach is to let the public know how difficult it is to teach. Shepardson, who came to teaching after working underground as a laborer in a tunnel project, says teaching tired him far more than the construction work.

-By Anne Tanner


 

Top: Student Courtney Ward is practice teaching.

Middle: Students and recruiters meet during an education job fair on campus.

Bottom: A student meets individually with a recruiter from Ankeny.

       

One of the best indications of the quality of Iowa's graduating teachers is their placement rate. Rebecca Anthony, director of the Education Placement Center, says her September 1998 survey of newly certified Iowa graduates shows that:

· 89 percent reported that they were teaching or in teaching-related positions.
· 4 percent had found work in other areas.
· 4 percent went on to graduate study.
· 1 percent were not seeking positions.
· 2 percent were still seeking a job.

"For the first time in 25 years, the market for teachers is opening up," Anthony says. "Our students have the opportunity to go almost anywhere to teach."

Iowa graduates have three major advantages in seeking employment:

· Their education is viewed as high caliber, with strong liberal arts.
· Their field-based training includes up to three practica and a semester-long internship in a school.

Anthony cites out-of-state cities that always send representatives here: Houston, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago. "And West Palm Beach and Albuquerque have been calling to get in, too," she adds.

Linda Smith, director of human resources for Aldine Independent School District in Houston, says she finds that student teachers and new hires from Iowa have received excellent training in their content area and teaching field. "They have high morals and an excellent work ethic," she says.

Iowa schools are well aware of the University's graduates, too. Greg Reed, associate superintendent of Cedar Rapids' 30 community schools, says, "We hired 20 graduates last year. They come to us well-versed in technology. I like the maturity level of Iowa teachers. But the thing the University does best is to make sure students have been in classrooms multiple times before they go out for their student teaching."

 

Rebecca Anthony, left, reviews student Lia Hansen's portfolio.

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