Some students and faculty members at St. Joseph's University, in Pennsylvania, are concerned about plans to deal with a deficit by increasing enrollment, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The university is facing an $8.7 million budget shortfall. Administrators have already imposed budget cuts throughout the campus, and argue that they can deal with some of the remaining financial challenges by increasing this fall's freshman class from 1,275 to 1,500. Critics say such an increase will lead to larger class sizes and/or lower admissions standards.
Chatham University, in Pennsylvania, may soon admit men to the undergraduate program for the first time, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Like many women's colleges, Chatham has coeducational graduate programs, but has kept its original undergraduate program for women. University officials said that they are studying the coed option out of concerns about having enough undergraduates in an era in which most female college applicants don't want a women's college. Chatham currently enrolls 588 undergraduates, down from 675 in 2008.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology is apologizing to applicant who received an email that was supposed to be about financial aid but that incorrectly said “You are on this list because you are admitted to MIT!" The Boston Globe reported. For many (it is unclear how many) that line wasn't supposed to be there as their admissions status remained undetermined. MIT has apologized for the error, which was the result of merging two email lists.
Last week the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education released model state legislation to create teaching fellowships for high school seniors willing to teach in high-need schools. Their approach includes a four-year college scholarship, accompanied by professional development, in exchange for a commitment to teach in a high-need school for four years. It is an excellent idea — and it could go farther still.
AACTE’s proposed approach rests on the notion that colleges and universities are still the best place to prepare teachers. For the past 20 years critics of teacher education, blaming gaps in student achievement on university-based teacher preparation, have touted alternative routes to teaching like “boot camps” and certification programs offered by non-university providers. They cite studies—including one that I published in 2005 -- indicating that ed school graduates feel ill-prepared for the classroom realities of teaching.
Yet colleges and universities still prepare nearly 90 percent of the nation’s teachers. We cannot abandon them, not for nostalgic but for very pragmatic reasons. To produce enough new teachers to meet schools’ needs over the next several decades, the nation must rely on institutions of higher education to prepare them. Plus unlike other teacher education providers, universities have faculty in the content or disciplinary areas in which students will teach.
For the past six years, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation has sponsored and promoted programs comparable to that being proposed by AACTE in five states — Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, and another state soon to be announced. We have learned that it is indeed possible to recruit top students to teaching positions in high-need schools with fellowships of $30,000. Their retention rate exceeds 95 percent after three years. The teacher candidates range from published scientists to award-winning engineers to recent graduates with high academic honors.
The Woodrow Wilson experience indicates that master’s programs are more effective than the baccalaureates proposed by AACTE. They are one-quarter the cost, four times faster, and have greater appeal to career changers.
The Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship also demonstrates that fellowships can be used as a vehicle for strengthening university-based teacher education programs. The 28 universities participating in the Fellowship have or are in the process of developing clinically intensive programs in partnership with local school districts, integrating disciplinary and pedagogical instruction and taught by clinical and academic faculty, including three years of post-graduation mentoring.
The AACTE proposal focuses on states, which Woodrow Wilson found to be the highest leverage target for such fellowships. Constitutionally, education is a state responsibility and states are the primary school funder. They also approve teacher education programs and set licensure requirements for teachers. In a time in which teacher hiring is down, small numbers of teachers can make an extraordinary difference if concentrated in a single state. For instance, in Indiana approximately 100 teachers are hired annually in the STEM fields, the highest-need hiring area.
There is an extraordinary opportunity to carry out the AACTE proposal today. Rather than conducting a campaign in 50 state capitols, a more effective approach might be to turn to Washington. Shifting to a single state-based program of the type that AACTE proposes promises far greater impact than the myriad of small, low-impact programs funded by Title II of the Higher Education and Elementary and Secondary Education Acts.With ESEA reauthorization in the offing, with bipartisan interest in teacher quality, and with the emphasis on local control that the AACTE approach makes possible, this model could stand a better chance than many in the current contentious environment.
In fact, it is possible to go even further than the AACTE proposal to strengthen teacher education. To qualify for new Title II funding, states could be asked to adopt data systems which would assess the effectiveness of graduates of the state’s ed schools in raising student achievement. Using this data, states would be expected to close failing teacher education programs and employ the fellowships to support top students to attend top-rated teacher education programs.
These students would be required to teach for three years in high-need schools in state. Our research shows that a teaching commitment any longer than three years is a barrier to top students applying — a psychological more than a true limitation. Even though Woodrow Wilson has an 80 percent retention rate after three years, the notion of a four-year program plus four years of service is formidable for high school seniors — a significant portion of their life.
The value of a state-by-state model like AACTE’s is that it can be tailored to local needs and implemented on a scale that is sustainable. If it is linked to incentives for institutional change that can also expand campus by campus and state by state, and if it is made the focus of federal efforts, this kind of approach could make real inroads not only in recruiting new teachers, but in preparing them for long and successful careers.
Arthur Levine, a former president of Teachers College, Columbia University, is president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.
The Common Application announced Tuesday that it is keeping the current essay prompts (and word limit of 650 words). When the prompts were introduced last year, they received mix reviews, but the Common Application announcement said that a survey found that 70 percent of member colleges and 90 percent of school counselors approved of the prompts. They are:
Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
GRE volume was up about 5 percent in the United States in 2013, and by larger percentages in some other countries. Among all countries outside the United States, GRE test-taking was up 30 percent, and the figure was up 70 percent in India, the Educational Testing Service announced.