Mary Lynne Calhoun, Dean, College of Education
Everybody’s talking about education these days. Much of the conversation is worry-filled. Budget crises are leading to unprecedented cuts in education budgets. School closings. Lay-offs. Some of the conversation focuses on anxious questions: Are America’s schools failing? Is America losing its competitive edge? Is test-based accountability the right way to gauge the success of children? Of teachers? Of schools? And the big question: Is there a future for American public education?
Central to the discussion of the future of our schools is a laser-sharp focus on teachers and teaching. Recognizing that teachers have a powerful impact on student learning, questions have arisen about who should be teaching our children, how should they be recruited, prepared and evaluated, and how we can retain and support excellent teachers. These questions provide a strong platform for taking teaching seriously in America.
While many voices – policy makers, elected officials, philanthropic leaders, business and corporate entities, school boards and executives – bring important ideas and perspectives to the conversation, I wonder if all the right voices have joined the conversation and if all the right voices are being heard. I encourage us to broaden the conversation and to make sure that parents, young people, and most especially teachers have the opportunity to shape America’s educational future.
And institutions of higher education must have a voice in the conversation as well. At UNC Charlotte, we are committed to the recruitment and preparation of the teachers we need now and in the future. Close to 7000 UNC Charlotte alumni are teaching in North Carolina’s public schools. UNC Charlotte is now the second largest teacher education program among North Carolina’s 47 colleges and universities, recommending over 600 new teachers for the North Carolina license each year. These new teachers come to the profession both through undergraduate teacher licensure programs and graduate pathways to teaching for college graduates from other fields. In the current environment of tension, worry, and negativity around schools and teaching, we should all be heartened by the presence of thousands of UNC Charlotte students – bright, caring, committed – who have said “yes” to careers in education.
We care not only about preparing “more” teachers but “better” teachers as well, those who can tackle the pressing challenges of children, youth, and schools and who give every child the educational opportunities to learn, grow, and have successful adult lives. Our faculty constantly examine the changing needs of children and schools to make sure our teacher candidates are prepared to help all children have rich, rigorous, and authentic learning experiences and to help all children succeed. Recent innovations in our teacher education programs include a more intense focus on the clinical preparation of teachers, including experiences in schools throughout the four-year baccalaureate program, and new impact studies that link P-12 student achievement to our teacher education programs and which help inform our practice.
If the next generations of Americans are going to be able to cooperate, compete, and succeed in our globally interconnected world, the answer to the big question – Is there a future for American public education? – must be a resounding “yes.” UNC Charlotte stands ready to continue the conversation with our community, school, and policy colleagues to work toward a bright educational future.
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