Higher Education Quick Takes
With the 2012 presidential campaign complete, the campaign for the Obama presidential library (and to raise money for it) has started, Politico reported. The University of Chicago -- where Obama taught and where Michelle Obama worked -- is considered the favorite. But Politico noted that the University of Hawaii is also making a strong push. Obama was born in Hawaii, his parents met at the university and his sister teaches there.a Jennifer Epstein article... -sj
University of Central Arkansas officials are pledging to stop a practice -- recently revealed -- of using funds from the tutoring center and admissions office budgets to subsidize the salaries of coaches, the Associated Press reported. In recent years, about $89,000 of the tutoring center's $217,000 budget has gone to coaches' salaries.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 245-139 on Friday in favor of the STEM Jobs Act, a Republican-backed measure that would make 55,000 visas available for foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. The bill is unlikely to progress in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Although there is bipartisan support for visas for STEM graduates, many Democrats oppose a provision of the bill that would eliminate the Diversity Visa Program, which allocates visas for those coming from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The White House opposes the STEM Jobs Act, as does NAFSA: The Association of International Educators, which said, in a statement, “In the acrimonious political debate about immigration reform, we lose our way by embracing a mistaken, zero-sum approach to permanent immigration.”
The American Federation of Teachers is proposing today a new national exam that all new teachers -- whether prepared by teacher education or other programs -- would have to take to be certified. "Just as in professions widely recognized for having a set of rigorous professional standards, such as law or medicine, teaching must raise standards for entry into the profession through a process similar to the bar process in law or the board process in medicine," says an AFT report, "Raising the Bar." "There has been significant debate about the quality of teacher preparation programs — both traditional and alternative. By requiring all teacher candidates to pass a universal assessment, we ensure all teachers who enter the classroom, whether trained in a traditional program or alternatively certified, meet the same standards of competence."
The report also calls for tougher standards for teacher education programs. "Completion of a set of program requirements including a minimum G.P.A., documentation and demonstration (through midpoint and exit examinations) of an understanding of fundamental or 'high-leverage' practices needed to be an effective beginning teacher, and at least a full year of successful clinical experience" are needed, the report says. It also says that new teacher education graduates should be able to demonstrate "mastery of subject-matter knowledge and competence in content-specific pedagogical approaches, as demonstrated by passage of a rigorous written exam."
Sharon P. Robinson, president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, offered this reaction via e-mail, to the AFT report: "AACTE is encouraged by the vision expressed by the American Federation of Teachers. A national 'bar' for teachers, including a teacher performance assessment, would represent the consensus of the broader professional community concerning novice teacher capabilities. The community of teacher educators, working with accomplished teachers across the country, has been working to create such an examination. edTPA has just been field tested by 7000 candidates from more than 160 institutions from 22 states. As we go forward, we look forward to working with the AFT and the full range of stakeholders in the education community to make the vision of a performance-based profession a reality."
Dixie State College, in Utah, is considering changing its name to reflect its status as a university and is also considering an end to the "Dixie" part of its name at the same time, the Associated Press reported. The name reflects the identity of a group of 19th-century Mormon settlers from the South who wanted to turn Utah into a cotton-growing region. Advocates of a name change say that Dixie has associations with the slave-owning or segregated South, while defenders of the name say that it reflects Utah history and doesn't prevent the college from promoting equity and diversity.
The preeminence of American science and technology is at risk and requires "bold investments," according to a report issued Friday by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The report notes that other countries are improving their research infrastructures, and that corporate support of research in the United States is increasingly focused on "near-term results," and not the basic research that can ultimately be more transformative.
Among the recommendations in the report;
- Long-term growth in research and development spending such that it increases from 2.9 percent of gross domestic product to 3 percent.
- New efforts by the administration and Congress to promote the "stability and predictability" of federal research support.
- Immigration reform to make it possible for those from abroad who graduate with science and technology degrees to stay in the United States.
- Significant improvements in science and technology education at the undergraduate level.
Representative George Miller, a California Democrat and the senior member of his party on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, has requested information from private student lenders about how they interact with borrowers, and has also asked the Government Accountability Office to examine problems with federal loan servicers. Republicans on the committee have also expressed concern about servicing problems in the past. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a report critical of some private lending practices in July.
Virginia Commonwealth University held a town hall meeting Thursday amid student concerns that the women's volleyball coach was fired for being gay, NBC 12 News reported. Students noted that the coach is popular, that the last season was a success and that reasons offered by the university for his ouster have been vague. Further, critics have noted that there have been two personnel changes in the athletic department since a new athletic director arrived -- the coach's dismissal and the demotion of another gay employee. University officials have denied wrongdoing, but said that they are investigating the allegations.
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote today on the STEM Jobs Act, a Republican-backed bill that would create up to 55,000 new visas for foreign graduates of American universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. The bill would also eliminate the diversity visa lottery, which allocates spots to immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.
This is a second attempt: a motion to suspend House rules in order to consider the STEM Jobs Act failed 257-158 in September. (Such a motion requires a two-thirds majority.) Although there is bipartisan support for increasing the number of visas available to foreign scientists who have been educated at U.S. universities, Democrats have opposed eliminating diversity visas. The White House announced its opposition to the Stem Jobs Act earlier this week. NAFSA: The Association of International Educators is also opposed to passage of the bill, which, the association says, "perpetuates a divisive, us-versus-them approach to immigration reform.”
“NAFSA supports the goal of creating a direct path to green cards for graduates of U.S. institutions of higher education, including but not limited to the STEM fields. Talented, innovative people are found in all fields, and all who are prepared to become productive members of our society and to contribute to our economy should be welcome. We do not support creating a new path for international students by eliminating another immigration program,” the association said in a statement on Thursday.