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UNM takes bold steps in teacher education

As professor emeritus and former associate dean for academic affairs in a college of education in a large upper Midwestern university, I have spent some 33 years in teacher education.

As a result, my experiences in these roles directly relate to the discussion at hand.

In examining the Albuquerque Journal’s article by Maggie Shepard of Sept. 24, its editorial of Oct. 4, and the op-ed column by Tony Watkins of Oct. 5, I would like to make what I hope are several useful comments.

Let me first congratulate the College of Education at the University of New Mexico and its dean, Salvador Hector Ochoa, for taking some bold steps to redevelop its teacher education program.

Further, the backing of provost Chaouki Abdallah is of extreme importance in carrying out this agenda. These discussions highlight the initial intensity of clinical experiences in seven locations with the supervision of 15 percent of its student teachers by means of an embedded faculty in high-needs schools – high poverty, developmentally challenged learners, English language learners.

The clinical experiences role is funded by an outside grant. There is concern for the ethnic diversity of learners and how to work with highly diverse populations as in Albuquerque Public Schools. Partnerships efforts with the Albuquerque Public Schools can provide the context to fulfill many of these needs.

Graduates of the new program will be traced over a two- or three-year period through surveys as a means of assessing the college curriculum and “other practices and plans.” The hope is that this model will serve the nation as a model for multi-ethnic teacher education.

While newspaper reports and editorials may not report completely the details of this program, there are issues of substance that face it.

An issue of constant criticism of teacher education programs is subject matter knowledge. This issue must be confronted if high-quality teachers are to be prepared in this program.

Further, the issue of clinical experiences funded from outside sources will need to be attended to once this source is no longer available.

Joint APS and UNM money will then need to support this idea, its subsequent expansion, and the necessary research agenda to support its efficacy if the model is to succeed. And, will the highly negative to education business community step up to help fill the void as well?

Finally, there are teacher education models of this kind that exist in this country; they simply lack visibility. Many of these kinds of discussions began with a consortium of university colleges of education, called the Holmes Group, in the 1980s and 1990s.

UNM seems to be stepping out in new ways toward improving the preparation of tomorrow’s teachers. There are concerns that require review. In a moment of relentless criticism of teacher education and the colleges and universities that prepare teachers, this effort is a breath of fresh air.

Dale L. Lange is a professor emeritus and former associate dean for academic affairs, University Of Minnesota-Twin Cities, College of Education and Human Development.

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