Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 3, 2012

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."

 

December 3, 2012

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.

December 3, 2012

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.

 

December 3, 2012

The board of Wilson College has been expected to vote Saturday on whether to accept a controversial plan to admit men to the residential undergraduate program, but announced instead that the board was delaying a decision until January. An announcement from the board said that it needed more time to consider the options. The college has only about 300 women in the residential program, and although men are admitted to other programs, Wilson's identity has been as a women's institution. A panel recommended a number of steps, such as a tuition cut, along with coeducation, to attract more students. Barbara K. Mistick, the president of the college, has warned that Wilson's finances are precarious and that few high school seniors these days seek out a women's college, making it difficult to attract the size of student body that would sustain the institution. In an interview after Saturday's announcement, she said that she backs the coeducation plan and believed enrollment could double within five or six years if men are admitted.

Students and alumnae, however, have criticized the coeducation plan. They have questioned whether the college will attract men in large numbers and have said that they fear losing Wilson's mission as an institution that nurtures young women.

December 3, 2012

Saudi Arabia's Cultural Mission to the United States has banned Saudi students from enrolling in an English language program at Southern Utah University, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The program is currently investigating allegations that it looks the other way at plagiarism and has lax academic standards to keep foreign students enrolled. Saudi students make up 158 of the 182 students enrolled.

December 3, 2012

Emmanuel Christian Seminary, the Tennessee college that cited financial concerns as one reason for threatening to fire a tenured professor for cause earlier this year, has received a $3 million gift from a donor, the largest in the college's history. Emmanuel's president told Chris Rollston, a professor of Old Testament and Semitic studies, that he should look for work elsewhere because his liberal theological views were offending students and prospective donors. Rollston's status at Emmanuel is still in flux, but the college announced the gift, from an unnamed Christian donor, to students earlier this week..

The money will be used for debt reduction and could hasten a merger between Emmanuel and its neighbor, Milligan College, which both institutions have said they are exploring. "Since the discussions between Milligan and Emmanuel began, Emmanuel has been blessed with a significant gift from a donor who has designated these funds to go toward relieving their debt," Milligan said in a statement. "Both institutions are grateful for God’s provision through this donor." A letter of intent between both institutions has begun the due diligence that could lead to a merger, Emmanuel announced.

 
November 30, 2012

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.

 

November 30, 2012

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.

November 30, 2012

Leila Ahmed, the Victor S. Thomas professor of divinity at Harvard University, has been named winner of the 2013 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence from the Middle East to America, published last year by Yale University Press. The award, worth $100,000, is sponsored by the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville.

 

November 30, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Diana Deutsch of the University of California at San Diego discusses the genetic and cultural factors that give some people perfect pitch. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

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