Volume 42, Number
IN THIS ISSUE
At Iowa, Those Who
Year Grad Plan
the World Away from Home
This Office, Students Come First
the Level Playing Field
The headlines have been disconcerting recently. Teachers,
they say, can't teach very well. Some didn't major in the subject
they're teaching. Some can't write well themselves, so their
students don't learn to write well.
Parents might well wonder: Will the College of Education at Iowa
teach my student to teach? Will he or she be able to get and
keep a good job in a good school?
The short answer to both questions is yes, says Richard Shepardson,
acting dean of the College of Education. But the longer, more
accurate answer is complex. Here's a deans-eye view of teaching
the teachers at Iowa.
FIND THE RIGHT STUDENTS
"It begins with admissions," Shepardson says. "We
need to admit the right students in the first place. We look
at grade-point average to rough-sort the applications, though
we do check to see if there is an added dimension to the student
who might not have a high grade-point average (GPA) but might
add something to our college. Then we look at ACT scores, prior
experience, an essay on why the student wants to be admitted,
prior course work, and letters of recommendation. It isn't easy
to get into the college."
While the minimum grade-point average for the college is a 2.70
(out of 4.0), students in some program areas may not get in if
they have less than a 3.00 average because of intense competition
for places. The 2.70 requirement is one of the highest of the
31 colleges and universities in the State of Iowa that have teacher
English education is the most competitive. The college's Language
Literacy program, which has a high reputation nationally, admits
about one-third of the applicants it receives. Social studies
education is next, with 50 to 60 percent of applicants admitted.
In these programs, the college is looking for about a 3.40-3.50
GPA and high marks in certain courses.
Elementary education admitted all eligible students until the
summer of 1997, when it moved to a competitive-based enrollment.
Now an applicant with a GPA over 2.70 may not be admitted, based
on a variety of criteria.
The average ACT score of admitted students is 23, higher than
the University's average and the average of students admitted
to education programs nationally (21). Because of this selectivity,
students learn in classrooms filled with bright students. Pushed
by their peers, they tend to learn more, Shepardson says.
IOWA'S EDUCATION ADVANTAGES
What draws all these applications to the college? Its strengths
· Faculty size (97, teaching about 1,100 students) in
a Research I institution.
· Quality of the faculty, which includes many members
who are nationally involved in setting standards, developing
curriculum materials used across the country, and working with
· A strong curriculum: Because the faculty is involved
in research, Iowa's courses tend to be based on theory and understanding,
and are rich in technological training that school districts
· Because so many excellent teachers want to work in Iowa
City, education majors will find their cooperating teachers are
highly skilled and often have completed advanced graduate work.
These teachers, who supervise practica and student teaching,
tend to be very strong mentors and coaches, Shepardson says.
But the college's location is not ideal for an education college,
either. "One of the problems we have, being located in a
state in which minorities total just over 3 percent of the population,
is teaching our students how to teach in areas where that percentage
might be 45 percent or 75 percent," notes Shepardson, who
taught for 10 years in California.
Iowa City skews perceptions in another way, too. "In the
Iowa City area, you may have schools in which the entire population
is averaging around the 95th percentile in reading. Our students
are sheltered from the real world," he says.
"So we have teacher training programs in Aldine, Texas;
Rialto, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada, to give our students
an appreciation for the more urban, low-income environment. We
recognize that we need to provide more content related to meeting
the needs of diverse populations. Some faculty members have addressed
that successfully. We need more contact with diverse learners
in beginning and middle practica."
Iowa's college also has formal partnerships with schools in West
Liberty and Iowa City that involve Iowa students doing practica
in their classrooms, direct classroom involvement of Iowa faculty
members, and teaching staff development programs.
Iowa's College of Education has about 1,100 undergraduates, 600
in elementary education and 500 in various secondary subjects.
The college had more elementary student teachers this year than
the total for elementary and secondary six years ago. Part of
the reason is that these seniors are the last class from the
time when the college was required to admit all qualified elementary
A PUBLIC RELATIONS PROBLEM
Considering the national consensus that it's vital to educate
our young people, it's puzzling that teaching, as a profession,
suffers from a bad image. Students with high grades and scores
who choose elementary education may hear, "Oh, that's too
bad. You could have done anything."
Curing the perception will require a long, slow process, Shepardson
notes. "I think we're moving toward National Standards Board
licensure for teachers, and if we get it, we could recognize
outstanding teachers. In the long run, that would raise the image.
I think it would help if teaching were perceived as a full-time
field, not nine months. It's not really nine months now, but
the perception is that teachers take summers off. That will take
time to change."
Another approach is to let the public know how difficult it is
to teach. Shepardson, who came to teaching after working underground
as a laborer in a tunnel project, says teaching tired him far
more than the construction work.
-By Anne Tanner
Courtney Ward is practice teaching.
and recruiters meet during an education job fair on campus.
Bottom: A student
meets individually with a recruiter from Ankeny.
One of the best indications of the quality of Iowa's graduating
teachers is their placement rate. Rebecca Anthony, director of
the Education Placement Center, says her September 1998 survey
of newly certified Iowa graduates shows that:
· 89 percent reported that they were teaching or in teaching-related
· 4 percent had found work in other areas.
· 4 percent went on to graduate study.
· 1 percent were not seeking positions.
· 2 percent were still seeking a job.
"For the first time in 25 years, the market for teachers
is opening up," Anthony says. "Our students have the
opportunity to go almost anywhere to teach."
Iowa graduates have three major advantages in seeking employment:
· Their education is viewed as high caliber, with strong
· Their field-based training includes up to three practica
and a semester-long internship in a school.
Anthony cites out-of-state cities that always send representatives
here: Houston, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago. "And West
Palm Beach and Albuquerque have been calling to get in, too,"
Linda Smith, director of human resources for Aldine Independent
School District in Houston, says she finds that student teachers
and new hires from Iowa have received excellent training in their
content area and teaching field. "They have high morals
and an excellent work ethic," she says.
Iowa schools are well aware of the University's graduates, too.
Greg Reed, associate superintendent of Cedar Rapids' 30 community
schools, says, "We hired 20 graduates last year. They come
to us well-versed in technology. I like the maturity level of
Iowa teachers. But the thing the University does best is to make
sure students have been in classrooms multiple times before they
go out for their student teaching."
left, reviews student Lia Hansen's portfolio.