The American Association of University Professors on Tuesday joined a chorus of other organizations and academics that have criticized a controversial recommendation that the board of the University of North Carolina System shutter the Chapel Hill campus's Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity. Critics of the decision have said that the board is playing politics and is targeting the center's director, Gene Nichol, a professor of law, for being an outspoken critic of policy makers who he says aren't doing enough to help the state's poor.
The AAUP's statement says in part that to be "true to their mission, public universities must serve all members of our society, the poor as well as the privileged. Externally funded centers must be free to sponsor curricular and extracurricular programs and provide services to the public across the broadest range of perspectives and approaches."
A Chapel Hill spokesman referred a request for comment to a campus message from Chancellor Carol L. Folt and Provost James W. Dean Jr., saying in part that "We recommended against this action, and are very disappointed with [the board's] decision. Since its inception in 2005, the center has focused dialogue, research and public attention on the many dimensions of poverty and economic hardship for people in North Carolina and beyond."
Adjuncts at Temple University on Monday kicked off National Adjunct Action Week with a pro-union march around campus. A sufficient number of adjuncts signed a petition to hold an election to form a union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. But the university has challenged their bid on a number of points, including who should and should not be included in the bargaining unit, and the case is pending before the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. About 75 adjuncts and their supporters walked across campus, holding pro-union signs and demanding that the university to allow them to set a union election date. Here's a Twitter image of the event:
Sharon Boyle, Temple’s associate vice president for human resources, said the university is concerned about adjuncts’ working conditions, and “didn’t need a march to pay attention to them.” She said the university already has raised adjuncts’ pay from $1,200 to $1,300 per credit hour (most courses are three or four), and that many of their concerns -- such as timelier course assignments and participation in shared governance -- need to be addressed by the full-time faculty. Ryan Eckes, an adjunct instructor of English at Temple, said adjuncts want better pay, benefits and job security, and need to be able to bargain collectively with the university to achieve them.
Although Monday’s march was specifically about the union bid, Eckes said it reflected the goals of adjuncts on other campuses and was timed to coincide with National Adjunct Action Week, an offshoot and extension of National Adjunct Walkout Day, which is planned for Wednesday. “Adjuncts are 70 percent of the faculty nationwide, and most students don’t even know what adjunct means,” he said. “We want to make the public aware of this situation in higher education.”
Sixty law professors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have issued a statement objecting to plans by the University of North Carolina System board to close the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, which is led by a UNC law professor. A committee vote last week to close the center outraged many faculty and others, who said that there was no financial reason to close a center that does not receive state funds, and who said that they believed it was being closed because of board anger at Gene Nichol, the head of the center, for criticizing conservative policies. (Board officials have denied this.)
The statement from the law professors says that the center is much needed. "Over the past decade, our state has experienced the greatest increase in concentrated poverty in the country. The center has continually sought to call attention to this pressing fact, as well as others that many would prefer to ignore. These include that 25 percent of all children live in poverty, including 40 percent of children of color."
Further, the statement says that attacking the center because of political disagreements with its leader sets a dangerous course for higher education. "To the extent that the working group’s recommendation regarding the Poverty Center is based on animus for our colleague and former dean, Gene Nichol, the Poverty Center’s director, we decry it," the statement says. "Professor Nichol has been a prominent and thoughtful critic of proposals that exacerbate inequality and drive low-income people into ever deeper destitution. Punishing a professor for expressing his views – views always carefully supported by facts and rigorous analysis – chills the free speech that is central to the University’s mission. Such active suppression of free speech contravenes the very lifeblood of a public university, where dialogue and dissent must be permitted to survive and indeed to flourish if scholars are to fulfill their missions of contributing to the collective knowledge of the commonwealth."
The University of Missouri at Kansas City on Friday announced that John Norton has resigned as a faculty member of the Henry W. Bloch School of Management. He is the second faculty member to quit who was involved in efforts to provide false information to the Princeton Review for its ratings of business schools. In a statement released by the university, Norton said: “I am as passionate as ever about teaching entrepreneurship and innovation to our excellent Bloch School students, but I have reached the conclusion that my role in events of recent weeks may distract from that mission.”
Wei-Hock Soon, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, regularly publishes articles and makes appearances to dispute the scholarly consensus on climate change. The New York Times reported that Soon took $1.2 million of fossil-fuel industry support for his work, and in numerous cases didn't cite the funding source, as required by journals in which he has published. Soon declined to talk to The Times, but has in the past denied that his funding in any way influences his findings.
The report prompted U.S. Senator Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, to call on oil and coal companies to reveal if they are funding scientific research, The Boston Globe reported.
On the latest edition of "This Week,"Inside Higher Ed's free news podcast, David Hawkins of the National Association for College Admission Counseling and Todd Rinehart of the University of Denver discuss a recent controversy involving presidential influence in admissions at the University of Texas at Austin. And in our other segment, the University of Denver's Arthur Jones and Henry Reichman of the American Association of University Professors explore Denver's new approach to employing non-tenure-track faculty -- a possible model for other institutions. Sign up here to be notified of new "This Week" podcasts.
Teachers make a tremendous difference, both in the lives of our children and the competitiveness and success of our country.
That’s why it’s so essential to get more effective teachers into U.S. classrooms. Every thoughtful strategy for this moral and economic imperative ultimately comes back to colleges and universities doing a better job of preparing teacher candidates. Contrary to movies and folklore, successful teachers are not born. They are trained and taught.
Going as far back as the 1950s, critics have bemoaned that rigor and relevance get short shrift in teacher education. Teachers themselves frequently make this complaint. Many vividly and painfully recount how they spent the early years of their careers guessing about how to manage their classrooms, plan engaging lessons, assess student performance and reach students of all achievement levels simultaneously. “Why did I have to learn so much on the job?” they fairly ask of us.
With a reasonable amount of compelling evidence, the National Council on Teacher Quality recently pointed to this problem in "Easy A’s and What’s Behind Them." Looking at information from more than 500 institutions, NCTQ found that teacher candidates are graduating with honors almost 50 percent more often than all undergraduate students.
Clearly, the assertion is that teacher candidates are not being held to the same high standards expected of other academic programs and that course work in teacher-prep programs is not being graded and evaluated rigorously.
Where this is true, shame on us. We’re misleading people in consequential ways. If new graduates aren’t as prepared to succeed in the classroom, as their grades and honors suggest, then we have done a disservice to them, to their employers and, most important, to their students.
We know this complaint is real. We’ve all heard that too few of the teachers we train have the practical knowledge and deep grounding in their content areas to teach to 21st-century standards.
We must hear critics’ legitimate complaints. I have often said that we are not differentiating the achievements of our graduates with the precision and honesty that, for example, law schools and other professional schools do. That’s a failure we, as institutions of higher learning, have to confront, own and fix.
Many in the teacher education establishment will say "Easy A’s" is a cheap shot or that it looks at incomplete information. Others have asserted that the methods that NCTQ uses to evaluate teacher education programs are inappropriate, if not flawed. Though we have our criticisms of NCTQ’s work, the message, not the messenger, is what we care about.
The reality is that far too many institutions do fail to adequately define what constitutes research-driven preparation practices. Because of that lack of definition, many education graduates have a false sense of their preparedness. Their college credentials don’t translate to results in the classroom.
Imagine the shock of new teachers, and especially our most celebrated grads, if they go into the classroom and their students objectively and consistently perform poorly.
Just as K-12 schools are being asked to differentiate teachers based on value-added metrics, teacher education institutions need to differentiate teacher candidates during their academic and clinical preparation.
True, our goal is for all candidates to do well. But if we have demanding rubrics for effective practice, not all teacher candidates will be rated equally or even highly. Quite simply, whether through rubrics or a limit on A’s or some other performance differentiator, teacher education programs also need to do a much better job of assessing the performance of candidates.
We have been critics of NCTQ and will continue to be when we disagree. Its rhetoric is often too strident, its perspective too jaundiced about teacher education programs. But the organization and we agree on two essential points:
Teacher education programs are vital to ensuring teacher quality and creating the necessary pipeline of talent for our nation’s schools.
Improving teacher quality will only be accomplished with more rigorous teacher preparation.
Even well-meaning programs such as Teach for America could benefit from better grounding in university partnerships. Our schools need highly trained and skilled teachers who are effective the day they start their careers. If we really are committed to providing a world-class education system, we must have a comprehensive system for turning out the professionals to drive it.
The way to ensure teachers will be successful is to provide and demand more rigorous clinically based teacher education. In that system, there will be no easy A’s.
Nancy L. Zimpher is chancellor of the State University of New York and holds a Ph.D. in teacher education and higher education administration. Thomas J. Lasley II is executive director of the Learn to Earn Dayton program at the Dayton Foundation and a professor in the School of Education and Health Sciences at the University of Dayton.