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)