Monthly Archives: January 2013

Conclusion

 

ALOED role

 

 

ALOED is happy to continue in a role of providing financial support for students , networking capabilities and advice to the college, the department and the students.  An expanded role of improving networking, communicating and mentoring would be welcomed by the alumni.  We feel very strongly that teacher education is an important piece in the mission of Occidental College, and we are happy to facilitate this in any way.  While teachers are notoriously not the biggest donors to alumni funds, due to the fact that they are not the highest paid graduates, they are dedicated and loyal, and can be successfully tapped for financial as well as moral support, if approached correctly.

“Networks matter.  The New Teachers Network, formed in January 2003 at Barnard College to support new teachers in New York City public schools, provides bi-monthly discussions, new materials, and sharing of ideas (Sacks, 2005).  New teachers find strength in these sessions from the collegial relationship with like-minded teachers.  There are other New Teachers Networks at Brandeis University in Boston and at the University of Chicago.  These networks provide a safe port and supportive environment for new teachers to share with others who have had similar preparation and educational experiences.” (Sacks, p. 194)

 Conclusion

 

We hope that we are presenting an exciting proposal of re-vamping the way teacher education is conducted to bring it into a technologically adapted future.  Such a program could be developed gradually over a few years, building on existing programs and opportunities, or it can be given the attention and resources necessary to produce a full-fledged transformation within a short period of time.  Hopefully this will align with the College’s strategic planning efforts and the opportunity to do something new and revolutionary that will be spearheaded by a visionary group of educators.

A Strong Teacher Education Program

      A Strong Occidental Teacher Education Program

Occidental should maintain a clinical focus to develop the best practitioners.  Theory is used as a tool to deepen understanding of concrete practices.  Praxis is key.

Courses should develop a deep understanding of a clear model of explicit direct instruction that is based on effective teacher and brain research, and teach specific, research-based instructional strategies so that all candidates have solid instructional delivery strategies.

The department should establish a teacher education director to provide cohesion, direction, and accountability for the quality of the program, and alignment of course work to a clearly defined model and vision of Oxy’s teacher education program.  The director must have proven expertise in classroom instruction, as well as educational leadership skills at a school or district level.

The faculty should develop a culture of collaboration in the department under the guidance and lead of the director.  This would be a model of what students are expected to do as education professionals.  For example, all professors and instructors would meet regularly to view lessons to practice observation and feedback, and develop consistency of expectations about elements of expert teaching; to monitor progress of students, and discuss and address successes and challenges of the program.

The college should restructure the education department to align with its clinical focus of developing excellent teachers.  For example, some current courses should be eliminated or perhaps integrated into a different department.  Professors must maintain some on-going elementary or secondary classroom work, either through research, teaching, or coaching.   Students could minor in education by completing some of the credential course work without committing to student teaching.

In conjunction with the development of laboratory or partner schools, Occidental should include more part-time instructors, who have demonstrated excellence in classroom instruction, to teach courses and supervise student teachers.  They would be expected to work under the guidance of the director and support Oxy’s clearly defined model of teacher education and identified content to ensure cohesion in the program.  In addition, these  partnerships would allow the school to connect to the “best” in the field.  Actively seek out partnerships with nearby districts which can link effective schools that have diverse populations, as a training site for student teachers.  Work on commitments to regularly place student teachers with excellent teachers (i.e. Oxy graduates, mentor teachers, award-winning teachers, or teachers highly recommended by principal or district).

It is important that the college provide necessary support to the faculty.  An administrator to deal with the paperwork required by the state credentialing board would ensure that the necessary detail work is completed accurately and in a timely fashion.  Such an administrator could also be used to find and apply for grants to help support the program.  It should be recognized that faculty members have unique responsibilities to their students that are not required of other departments.  As Linda Darling-Hammond states, “If teaching is a low-status occupation in the United States, teacher education is an even lower-status enterprise within most universities…The incentive systems of universities favor research and in-ward-looking faculty service over the intensive and time-consuming work with prospective teachers and schools demanded by professional training.” (Powerful Teacher Education p. 277)

The department must connect to Occidental’s undergraduate program.  Students will have the benefit of a strong liberal arts program to develop breadth of knowledge in multiple disciplines.  This could more firmly embed the education program as part of Occidental’s larger academic community. Again,  Barnard offers a good example of how this can be done effectively.   “Experiences required by the expanded New York State standards can be woven into existing courses.  For example, faculty of various departments from economics and philosophy to psychology and urban studies have been helpful.  Colleagues have been keen to include issues of public education and learning as topics on their syllabi from fiscal equity to social understanding to concerns for a “good and just society.”  Getting to know a community becomes an urban studies assignment, visiting a community religious center becomes a paper’s focus, creating a garden in a vacant lot becomes an environmental project, tutoring becomes a study of motivation for psychology and helping with senior citizens serves as oral history lessons.  By integrating education into the fabric of other departmental courses, support and relationships are established to enhance the students’ depth of learning and experiences in preparation for student teaching.” (Sacks, p. 179)

As emphasized previously, the role of digital learning is critical.  A linchpin of the credential program should be a focus on instructional technology.  Building on the work done at Occidental currently in the Center for Digital Learning and Research and the Information Resources, a truly unique program could be developed that would make Occidental a leader in 21st century K-12 education and  enable its graduates to be agents of change and leadership in tomorrow’s schools.

Educational Studies

 

Educational Studies Program

     It has been suggested that Occidental institute an Educational Studies major.  In the state of California, an Educational  Studies major is not considered an academic major for credentialing purposes.  It must be paired with another “academic” major.

In other states, with different restrictions on academic majors, a number of institutions have followed this path. “A substantial number of liberal arts colleges and universities offers educational studies programs …These programs offer the combination of disciplinary study, pedagogical instruction, field experience, and multidisciplinary inquiry that prepares their students to make valuable contributions to school communities.” (Bjork, p. 15).  While this may be an interesting avenue for students interested in learning about the social implications and history of the educational system, it would be worthless if such a program were to replace the traditional approach of creating new teachers.  Theory is one thing, but to effect real change in education, reform must come from professionals with a knowledge of the system from the inside out, and have an understanding of the challenges that are faced.

The Illinois Wesleyan University experience is one interesting example of the way that an educational studies program can be effective.   “The department was transformed from an “education” to an “educational studies” department, non certification programmatic alternatives were introduced to expand the department’s curricular focus and faculty with significant interdisciplinary interests were hired…First, clinical experiences were systematized…Mandatory student teaching seminars were made more rigorous.  Policies involving supervision of candidates in the field and the selection of cooperating teachers were reformed and, most importantly, the student teaching experience became more closely linked to candidates’ previous field experiences…qualified district personnel were invited to teach selected courses in curriculum and pedagogy, or to work with teacher preparation candidates as university supervisors during their student teaching experience…The expectation is that all students will complete a one-semester research project of some type…Additional curricular changes have been initiated within specific certification programs at the secondary level…”(Epstein, p. 44)

At Barnard, an approach to the oft-reviled standards issue had impressive results that should be considered. “Experiences required by the expanded New York State standards can be woven into existing courses.  For example, faculty of various departments from economics and philosophy to psychology and urban studies have been helpful.  Colleagues have been keen to include issues of public education and learning as topics on their syllabi from fiscal equity to social understanding to concerns for a “good and just society.”  Getting to know a community becomes an urban studies assignment, visiting a community religious center becomes a paper’s focus, creating a garden in a vacant lot becomes an environmental project, tutoring becomes a study of motivation for psychology and helping with senior citizens serves as oral history lessons.  By integrating education into the fabric of other departmental courses, support and relationships are established to enhance the students’ depth of learning and experiences in preparation for student teaching.”(Sacks, p. 179)

Social Justice

 

Social Justice

         Social Justice has long played a pivotal role in the mission of Occidental College.  A telling interchange occurred at the spring TEAB (Teacher Education Advisory Board) between President Veitch and Desiree Vargas, principal of Rockland Elementary School.  She commented on Occidental’s commitment to social justice, and President Veitch asked her how she defined that sometimes nebulous term.  Her definition of social justice matched most people’s definition of good teaching.  It includes concepts like making sure all students are given the opportunity to learn, believing that all students can learn, and teaching to all ability levels.

The concept of differentiation of instruction is a hot-button topic in education now.  With the increasing numbers of special needs students in the mainstream classroom, and the preference for inclusion, teachers are needing tools to address the disparate needs found in every classroom.  The skills needed to teach the special education student, the English language learners and the gifted, along with the wide spectrum of ability levels are of critical importance in today’s classroom.

In addition, Oxy’s commitment to diversity and service to the local community, makes it an ideal laboratory to train teachers to teach students from a wide range of ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds.

Linda Darling-Hammond, in Powerful Teacher Education Programs ( p. 223) makes this case for differentiation of instruction as a tool to combat social injustice.“Explicit preparation for teaching diverse learners represents an important advance in the field of teacher education.  For some time, research on teaching in urban schools has suggested that, as a result of some teachers’ limited skills and the belief that their students are not capable of learning to a high level, many low-income and minority students receive a steady diet of low-level material coupled with unstimulating, rote-oriented teaching…Program efforts also, of course, include development of teaching strategies and skills that can be successful with a wide range of learners, because without such skills any belief that”all children can learn” soon devolves into little more than rhetoric.”

 

She continues on p. 334 with, “It is no exaggeration to say that our nation is at a crossroads.  We are currently developing a sharply bimodal teaching force, just at a time when the crucial importance of teacher quality has been recognized.  Some children are gaining access to teachers who are more qualified and better prepared than in years past, but a growing number of poor and minority children are being taught by teachers who lack training and are sorely unprepared for the task they face.  This will turn the cracks into which many children fall into chasms, despite the apparent drive to raise standards.”

James Banks, known as the father of multicultural education, calls this process “equity pedagogy.” He defines it as deliberate “teaching of strategies and designing of classroom environments to help students from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural groups attain the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to function effectively within a democratic society.”(Banks, Summer 1993)

Lab School or Partnership School

 

Lab School or Partnership School

 Occidental should consider developing formal partnerships with local schools or create its own laboratory school or charter school.  Such  partnership or laboratory schools would both provide a setting for research by professors and graduate students, and would ensure that student teachers are placed with outstanding, dedicated mentor teachers.  Members of the staffs of such schools could serve as adjunct professors to teach methods classes, and members of the Occidental faculty could teach professional development classes for the school staff.   Such a close collaboration would necessitate the communication and integration required of an outstanding student teaching experience.  A charter school or lab school would ensure that only interested, qualified teachers would participate as mentor teachers.  Such a program would foster reciprocity.  For example, student teachers will learn from the best teachers, and will help provide needed assistance in their classrooms.  Schools will also be able to see the student teachers in action, thus providing a strong link to prospective teachers for the district.

The community literacy center or the child development center could serve as a beginning for the development of such a laboratory school on campus.  Local schools such as Rockdale, Eagle Rock Elementary or Eagle Rock High School have expressed interest or been used in the past as such informal partnership schools.  Creating digital classrooms or a digital high school within the existing schools could provide exciting opportunities.

Any such school must reflect the diversity of the community, and allow students the opportunities of dealing with a variety of learning styles and needs.  A summer school program, taught entirely by students would be an interesting pilot program.  Such a program would not only provide a service for local students, but would allow education students the experience of planning curriculum, opening and closing a program, and dealing with all the logistics of teaching in a classroom.  They will have the experience of leading their own classrooms with coaching and support of teachers who will be on “vacation” and thus will be able to dedicate more time and focus on coaching, while the student teachers will have the experience of working with challenging students and provide a service that is desperately needed in the face of budget cuts.

Such a lab school or partnership school would also give Oxy visibility in the field of education.  Providing model classrooms, including research into the effectiveness of learning strategies and developing an environment for innovative programs will move Oxy into the forefront of teacher preparation. These schools or partnerships could be developed gradually over a number of years. A model digital school would be a good place to showcase some of the work already being done at Occidental by the Center for Digital Learning and Research.  In Taking Teaching Seriously, Susan Riemer Sacks (p. 179) discusses some of the ways Barnard College has done outreach to the community.  They have a partnership with the Bronx High School, they provide peer health educators for high school girls, they provide a curriculum project designed by student teachers called, “Science in the City” for elementary students, they provide “Saturday Science Seminars” for 11th grade girls, and they provide on-going tutoring and mentoring programs.

Address Gaps in Preparation

 

Address Gaps in Preparation

      Many teachers, even Occidental graduates who completed their credential programs elsewhere, feel that their teacher preparation programs were sadly lacking.  In contrast, most graduates of the Occidental Credential Program over the past decades,  feel that their preparation was outstanding, and that they entered the classroom prepared to teach from the first day of school.  Student teaching honed their skills.  It did not have to develop them from the ground up, because students had experienced extensive fieldwork preparation and reflective classroom discussion with strong outside support.  A strong teacher preparation program is essential to providing excellent teachers.

The National Council on Teacher Quality published a report in July, 2011, entitled “Student Teaching in the United States”.   This report states,Because teaching is so difficult and novices are not well prepared for its challenges, first-year teachers are notoriously and almost uniformly weak.  As the findings from a study below depict (consistently replicated in many studies), the majority of a novice teacher’s students lose ground, making less than a year’s worth of progress in the teacher’s first year in the classroom.” (http://www.nctq.org/edschoolreports/studentteaching/docs/nctq_str_full_report_final.PDF)

Another article, written by Dr. Arthur Levine of Columbia Teacher’s College and published in September, 2006, reinforces that statement, castigating teacher preparation programs for “inadequately preparing their graduates to meet the realities of today’s standards-based, accountability-driven classrooms, in which the primary measure of success is student achievement.(http://www.edschools.org/pdf/Educating_Teachers_Exec_Summ.pdf)

Linda Darling Hammond addresses this issue in Powerful Teacher Education (p. 80) when she says, “If teachers are viewed primarily as purveyors of information, perhaps they need little more than basic content knowledge and the ability to string together comprehensible lectures to do an adequate job.  For this kind of teaching, it is easy to believe that reasonable communication skills and a liberal arts education could be sufficient preparation.  But if teachers must ensure successful learning for students who learn in different ways and may encounter a variety of difficulties, then teachers need to be diagnosticians and planners who know a great deal about the learning process and have a repertoire of tools at their disposal.  In this view, teaching requires a professional knowledge base that informs decisions about teaching in response to learners.”

John Goodlad, in Teachers for Our Nation’s Schools, (p.25) begins with this premise.  “And to ensure 180 days of good teaching no doubt requires different and better education and training than today’s teachers received.  To guarantee that teachers and principals possess the knowledge and skills required to renew their schools undoubtedly requires components not present in today’s preparation programs.”

In regards to Teach for America, in Taking Teaching Seriously, Roellke and Rice (p. 171) have this to say: “These highly incentivized programs, which often include tuition remission grants for graduate school, retention bonuses and so forth, present a significant dilemma for talented liberal arts students considering a career in teaching…  Specifically, our respondents pointed to the need for additional instruction in multicultural education, special education, and more ample opportunities for pre-service practicum experiences in urban settings.”

Today,  we need to address specific gaps often seen by underprepared teachers.  A group of administrators (listed as participants at the end of this report) interviewed by ALOED came up with the following list of areas they feel should be addressed.

Teachers must:

1) Know how to use a clearly defined model of lesson and unit design

2) Have strong classroom management skills

3) Have a deep understanding and ability to use explicit direct instruction

4)  Have a strong understanding of the California Common Core State Standards

5) Know a variety of assessments tools and how to analyze the data.

6) Know how to use both formal and informal assessments to check for student’s understanding and modify instruction

7) Be able to identify and use strategies to differentiate, especially for English language learners.  John Dewey in 1929 noted “the better prepared teachers are, the more their practice becomes differentiated in response to the needs of individual students, rather than routinized” (Linda Darling-Hammond, Powerful Teacher Education p. 10)

8) Be able to use several research-based instructional strategies to teach reading, math, and other content areas.  Even single subject credential students need a strong understanding of how to teach and improve students’ reading and writing skills.

Here are some of the characteristics the focus group found to describe excellent teachers:

Commitment

Curriculum and lesson design

Creativity/ Ability to engage students

Collaboration

Good sense of Pacing

Classroom Management

Self-reflective and articulate

Confidence and Competence

Strong writing skills

Data analysis

Solid background in subject areas/Deep understanding of content

Strong knowledge of child development

Research based instruction

Use of technology in instruction, communication and assessment

Differentiation (meet the individual needs all students)

 

Guiding Principles of Teacher Education

 

What are some guiding principles we should consider to enhance Oxy’s teacher education program?

Several diverse groups have posited their criteria for effective teacher education programs.  Some of the key ones are summarized below:

Three critical components of effective teacher education programs include:

1) Tight coherence and integration among courses and between course work and clinical work in schools

2) Extensive and intensely supervised clinical work integrated with course work using pedagogies that link theory and practice

3) Closer, proactive relationships with schools that serve diverse learners effectively and develop and model good teaching.

(from Constructing 21st Century Teaching by Linda Darling-Hammond)

10 Design Principles for Clinically Based Preparation

1) Student learning is the focus.

2) Clinical preparation is integrated throughout every facet of teacher education in a dynamic way.

3) A candidate’s progress and the elements of a preparation program are continuously judged on the basis of data.

4) Programs prepare teachers who are expert in content and how to teach it and are also innovators, collaborators, and problem solvers.

5) Candidates learn in an interactive professional community.

6) Clinical educators and coaches are rigorously selected and prepared and drawn from both higher education and the P-12 sector.

7) Specific sites are designated and funded to support embedded clinical preparation.

8) Technology applications foster high-impact preparation.

9) A powerful R&D agenda and systematic gathering and use of data supports continuous improvement in teacher preparation.

10) Strategic partnerships are imperative for powerful clinical preparation.

(from Transforming Teacher Education Through Clinical Practice: A National Strategy to Prepare Effective Teachers. A Report of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation and Partnerships for Improved Student Learning, downloaded from http://www.ncate.org)

Components that were traditionally part of the Occidental credential program continue to be of primary importance:

1)Highly selective program

2) Providing a rigorous academic background

3) Close communication between faculty, students, schools, teachers, including on-going feedback

4) Individual attention

5) Connections with the community, including a community service component

6) A strong link betwen educational theory and practical classroom applications

7) Extensive fieldwork experience. Linda Darling-Hammond in Powerful Teacher Education (p. 100) states that “A growing body of research confirms this belief, finding that teachers-intraining who participate in fieldwork either before or alongside coursework are better able to understand theory, apply concepts they are learning in their coursework, and support student learning.”

8) Institutional support. “It is reasonable to expect that colleges and universities will take on the task of educating future teachers most seriously- or not at all. This seriousness will be revealed in, for example, a president’s expressions of commitment in addresses to alumni and friends of the institution, the careful selection of applicants, the equitable allocation of resources, the institution’s clear delegation of authority to those responsible for preparation programs, forthright s pecifications and provisions of curricula, the development of exemplary field sites, appropriate recognition of site coordinators and master teachers in the schools, and much more.” (Goodlad, p. 45)

“Programs for the education of educators must enjoy parity with other campus programs as a legitimate college or university and commitment and field of study and service, worthy of rewards for faculty geared to the nature of the field.” (Goodlad, p. 55)

9) Cohort groups/professional learning communities

(From ALOED focus group discussions)

Many of the programs we looked at reflected the experience that Occidental educators shared throughout the decades. Some of these important attributes are listed below:

1) Emphasis on the quality of relationships with education instructors, outstanding supervising teachers, and diverse learners to ensure that all candidates receive excellent instruction, supervised, guided practice and coaching, and assistance with the credential and employment process. This supports the idea that what makes a difference in the quality of the program is the quality of the people involved, not specialized course offerings that are difficult to implement on a small campus with limited resources.

2) All Education courses include fieldwork

3) Close, personalized fieldwork supervision and feedback

4) Small class sizes

 

What is the role of a small, liberal arts college ?

 

What is the role of a small, liberal arts college in the area of teacher preparation?

           The book, Taking Teaching Seriously: How Liberal Arts Colleges Prepare Teachers to Meet Today’s Educational Challenges in Schools (Edited by Christopher Bjork, D.Kay Johnston, and Heidi Ross,c.2007) makes the point that liberal arts colleges have a significant role to play in the area of teacher preparation.

A panel presentation at Occidental on October 22, 2012, dealt with specific experiences at three different liberal arts institutions.  Ruthanne Kurth-Schai, Professor and Educational Chair of Educational Studies at Macalaster; Shari Becker Albright, Education Department Chair of Trinity University; and Vicki Kubler LaBoskey, Professor and Co-director of Teachers for Tomorrow’s Schools at Mills College were the panelists.  All three of these professionals expressed their strong beliefs that liberal arts colleges had an important role to play in the development of outstanding educators.

Liberal arts colleges are uniquely situated to provide outstanding teachers.  Their students have a depth of intellectual experience in the subject matter.  They are taught to be critical and reflective thinkers.  They have a strong belief in the concept of equality of access to instruction.  Teacher education programs should focus on“…a desire to attract individuals who are both intellectually capable of handling the challenges of teaching and pedagogically prepared to translate their goals into effective classroom practice…” (Bjork, p. 11-12)

An education program based in a liberal arts college will ideally combine a strong undergraduate program with the tools necessary to communicate information to students.   While this is a call for intellectually demanding programs, it continues to be important to provide the instructional tools and experiences that allow students to evaluate them.  “One of the themes that emerged from interviews with faculty at liberal arts institutions was the idea that teacher education should be intellectually demanding; rather than simply providing pre-service teachers with a cache of instructional tools, such programs should challenge individuals to think seriously about the role of the teacher and the school in society.”  (Bjork, p. 16)  “Although liberal arts teacher education promotes intellectual exploration and development, it rejects the notion that content knowledge alone is a sufficient prerequisite for teaching.  The liberal arts faculty members I interviewed emphasized that individuals who have studied instructional methodology and applied that knowledge to actual classroom settings will make stronger educators as a result of their pre-service experiences.  Field experiences grounded in college-based coursework represent the pairing of academic study and firsthand exposure with the dynamics of school communities.”  (Bjork, p. 21)

Larger institutions may be able to maximize the benefits of their size with large numbers of students and a wide variety of course offerings.  However, this is not necessarily a disadvantage to a smaller liberal arts college program. “One of the limitations of liberal arts education programs or departments is their small size.  With only a handful of full-time faculty, they seldom provide the breadth of offerings commonly found in the course catalogue of a large research-oriented university.  However, the size of the liberal arts institution often requires education professors to seek out collaborative relationships with colleagues in other departments who have expertise in education-related topics.” (Bjork, p. 17)

At the same time, the smaller size can allow for more innovation, creativity, and cross-department teaching.  At Swarthmore,” (m)any courses are cross-listed in other departments.  Most of the courses require a field placement, ranging from classroom observation and assisting, to tutoring, to action research and evaluation projects in local schools and community agencies: (Smulyan p. 86)

The size of a smaller department allows for closer communication and more personalized attention on the part of faculty, prospective teachers and assisting schools.  “Members of education department faculty closely supervise students as they conduct fieldwork.  One of the distinct advantages of liberal arts teacher education is the regularity and depth of interactions between professors and students…Assigning this dual role to professors encourages the fusion of intellectual and pedagogical thought, for student teaching supervisors are likely to have a thorough understanding of the research and theory that students explore prior to entering the field.  It also facilitates an ongoing dialogue between supervisor and pre-service teacher centered on reflection and analysis of the student teacher’s actions in the classroom.

As the above discussion suggests, education programs at liberal arts institutions attach great importance to the integration of academic study, pedagogical preparation, classroom experience and clinical supervision.  Each of these activities could be undertaken independently, but doing so would obfuscate the inherent complexities of the profession of teaching.  Teacher education at liberal arts institutions emphasizes the multiple roles assigned to educators and the variegated skills demanded of them.”(Bjork, p. 22)

A college such as Occidental, with a firm commitment to serving the community, finds that the preparation of teachers is an ideal vehicle for that sort of relationship.  “What is the role of the teacher preparation program within the liberal arts college environment?  Personal experience has reinforced my belief that teacher preparation specifically, and educational studies more generally, can play extremely important roles within liberal arts colleges, but in ways that are perhaps somewhat different from other academic disciplines.  First, the existence of teacher preparation programs visibly reiterates the importance of the teaching mission of the institution…Second, the existence of teacher preparation programs can demonstrate visible institutional commitments to the pursuit of social justice…A third role that teacher preparation and educational studies programs can fulfill centers on the service responsibilities the liberal arts college has to its surrounding community.”  (Epstein, p. 42-43)

Well-trained, well-prepared, well-educated teachers from selective liberal arts colleges are well-placed to make significant changes in the schools they lead.  They are also more likely to remain active in educational fields for longer than most of their peers.  “While there is a strong theoretical base to support and promote the education of teachers at selective liberal arts colleges, this practical question remains: Do the graduates of such institutions contribute substantive differences to the teaching profession and to the students and communities in which they teach?” (Mendoza [Colorado College], p. 198)  “Both groups present a higher retention rate than the national rate…Retention may indeed reflect the preservice teacher education experiences shared by the teachers.”  (Mendoza, P. 199-200)

ALOED Survey Responses

Sample Survey Responses:

“Oxy prepared me for teaching in public schools.  At that time, saying you graduated from Oxy always put you at the front of the line.” (‘61)

“The observation assignments and student teaching experiences were invaluable.  I felt prepared professionally.” (‘61)

Oxy provided awesome prep for the career I chose.  I was a leader on campus and my students learned a great deal in the classroom.  I am very happy with my choice.  I am now mentoring student teachers for Fresno Pacific University.” (‘77)

“I was better prepared than colleagues and I liked to hire Oxy grads.”(‘78)

I think Oxy prepared me far more than other teaching programs which I have seen (via student teachers).  I love my job and plan to teach for the next 20 years.  I was hired directly out of college and given GATE courses as well as autonomy.  I found that Oxy prepared me very well for the transition into a first year teacher.  I am saddened that Oxy has put the credential program on hold.“ (‘04)

“Still teaching.  My Occidental credential, together with the field experience I received as a student teacher (at my present school) were the reasons I was hired.“ (’01)

“Our credential program was very personal, addressing the needs of each student teacher, and included lots of classroom time that was invaluable.” (‘90)

“Occidental College’s teaching program use to be one of the most respected in Southern California. Anytime you told someone that you went to Occidental College the response was very positive. It would be a shame for that tradition to die because the current faculty let the college down.“ (‘96)

“I appreciated the guidance, small class sizes, mentoring, and the rigor of the preparation.  The program was very cohesive and focused on preparing excellent teacher leaders.” (‘87)

In both Glendale, CA, and in two districts in NY, my Oxy credential opened doorways to employment.  GUSD has always held Oxy teachers in high esteem.  I was sad to see the recent developments in the Oxy credentialing program.“ (‘61)

“The credential program was invaluable and has prepared me for many years of success.“ (‘90)

“It was so prestigious that I ended up interviewing school districts to see which one in which I WANTED to work instead of them interviewing me.“ (‘60)

The education department was highly esteemed by many people back in the day.  I was offered many jobs, just because I was an OXY grad.  I sincerely hope that the education department gets back on its feet and soars back up to the levels that it has been known for.“ (‘76)

“Occidental teaching candidates were held in high regard with the principals and administrators with whom I interacted in Glendale. I felt very well prepared as a new teacher, thanks to the education and direction I got from Occidental’s education department.“ (‘03)

My M.A.T. from Oxy has been instrumental in shaping my education career. I taught full-time (English lit. and composition) for 4 years in Pasadena public high schools before transitioning into librarianship. Subsequent jobs as a high school librarian and university librarian fundamentally integrate the skills I honed in Oxy’s education department to create, deliver, and assess holistic curriculum.“ (‘00)

“A credential from Oxy was highly regarded in the education community.“ (‘68)

“In every district where I taught, an Occidental credential was seen as being valuable.” (no year)

“I am proud of the credential I received from Oxy. We were very well prepared not only to teach but to educate the whole child and to be life-long learners ourselves.“ (‘78)

“43 years total in education, including doctoral degree and college teaching. 25 years as a principal. Please reinstate the teacher certification program at Oxy and let me know how I can help. Secondary credential from UCLA, admin credentials from U of Washington, EdD from Seattle University.“ (‘67)

“My Occidental credentials provided an in and got me a job when the market was very tight post Proposition 13.  I was very well prepared because of the Occidental program.“ (‘77)

“Oxy had a reputation of training teachers and administrators that was unparalleled.  The Oxy credential opened doors.“ (‘63)

“Most impressive, is that they [Stanford] set up a Charter High School in East Palo Alto. The students from this minority community are worked with by Stanford Education Faculty, and students.  Over half of the students are college bound!  The dropout rate has dramatically diminished.

I think Occidental could accomplish such things, as they train teachers for credentials.  This would require the Education professors to get to know the people in the public schools nearby, and need to deeply involve the Oxy professors in helping their student teachers to have a successful experience in student teaching.  If Oxy has an Education Department, and it does not provide a successful Credential Program, there is no reason to have any “Education Dep’t.” in my opinion.  Occidental has many students who can be the outstanding teachers of the future.  Occidental claims to be interested in the City of L.A. and its people.  What can be more important than teaching in L.A. Schools?  And providing the schools with outstanding teachers?  Is the K-12 part of the teaching world beneath the dignity of Occidental College students?”  ( ‘53)

Why should Oxy reinstate and strengthen its teacher credential program?

Why should Occidental reinstate and strengthen its teacher credentialing program?

        A teacher education program complements and builds on the strengths of Occidental as an outstanding, small liberal arts college in an urban community.  A strong teacher education program has the potential to positively influence the quality and strength of teaching and learning at Oxy if it is strategically integrated and publicized.

At a time when education is sorely in need of intelligent and innovative approaches, it is a school like Occidental that is best positioned to provide teachers and researchers that can lead the way to re-structure and re-invigorate education.    Programs that rely on mentoring (student teaching) and processing large numbers of students through cookie-cutter credential programs do not have the time and attention to allow for reflection, research and innovation.

A teacher credential program is clearly aligned to the college’s mission statement to prepare leaders. The education profession directly embodies the idea of ”fulfillment of individual aspirations and a deeply rooted commitment to the public good…excellence, equity, community and service.”

Occidental has had a long and proud history of preparation of teacher leaders who continue to make a positive difference in the lives of children, schools, and districts. In a recent survey conducted by ALOED, 137 alumni responded.  Of these, 18 are involved in preparing teachers at the college level, either as professors of education or as adjunct professors or student teacher supervisors.  22 are working as administrators either as principals or superintendents.  31 included other administrative responsibilities (coordinators, specialists, directors) as part of their job description.  10 are teaching in colleges and universities.  Responses ranged from the class of 1951 to the class of 2007.  While the small size of the sample doesn’t  prove anything statistically, it is a strong indication that for such a small program, Occidental has an impressive effect on education at leadership levels, and is well-positioned to influence teachers of the future.

Teachers who received their credentials from Occidental through the years have praised the quality of their preparation and felt that they were well-positioned to enter the classroom.  Occidental graduates who received their credentials elsewhere, while they often end up being outstanding educators, generally do not have the same sense of the excellence of their training and admit that it takes a couple of years for them to feel that they are at a level where they consider they are doing a good job of educating students. 

Almost all respondents credited Occidental with their success in the classroom at whatever level they ended up working.  Almost every respondent who did receive their credential at Oxy commented on the excellence of the preparation, the reputation Occidental had in the community, and the fact that they felt better prepared than their colleagues who received their credentials from other institutions.  Comments such as, “Occidental College well prepared me for a career in education. Occidental is unique in the rigor of the academic standards, quality of students, and individual responsibility it instills” (Class of 1968) or, “I strongly feel that the Occidental teaching program prepared me very well to be a teacher. I loved the credential program, and the professors who encouraged me and worked beside me.” (class of 1989) were typical of the outpouring of responses.  (see Appendix for a more alumni comments)

It must be emphasized that this sort of sentiment on the part of graduates of teaching credential programs is unique.  Too often, the only worth found by new teachers in their preparation lies in the student teaching, not in the foundation that was laid by courses and experiences that preceded it.   One Oxy grad of 1953, who completed her fifth year and credential program at Stanford made this statement:  “Looking back, the School of Education [at Stanford] experience was not stimulating or imaginative.”   However, those who did not receive their credential at Oxy still felt it was the liberal arts education and the training they received as undergraduates that enabled them to work effectively as educators.

As schools once again grapple with reform, standards and testing, excellent teachers are desperately needed to help close the achievement gap and help prepare college and career-ready students in the 21st century.  An Occidental education fosters the critical thinking skills that are embedded in the new academic standards.

In his book, The Time of Our Lives, Tom Brokaw makes the following statements: “Reorganizing American education is a priority on a level with containing the war on terrorism, for it is just as essential to national and economic security…It is nothing less than a national imperative to maintain the health of our country’s status.” (Loc. 594)