Tuesday, June 06, 2000

Teacher training changes on deck

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Three Ohio universities will work with state higher education officials on a new effort to train and produce better, more effective school teachers.

        The Ohio Teaching-Learning Initiative, to be announced this morning by Gov. Bob Taft and education leaders, will change the way Ohio State University, Ohio University and Wright State University prepare their students to become teachers. The initiative is a response to national studies that show better-trained teachers turn out smarter students.

        Among the changes: The three universities will emphasize critical thinking and communications as skills good teachers must know. Basic courses, such as chemistry and physics, will be refocused to give college students a stronger grasp on the subjects before teaching them in classrooms.

        The Ohio Board of Regents will monitor the universities' efforts and come up with a better teacher training model that all state universities can adopt.

        “There are 50 colleges and universities in Ohio that have solid teaching programs,” said Mike Brown, a Board of Regents spokesman. “This is a start.”

        In Columbus, OSU officials will link professors who train students to teach math, science or English with other professors who teach those subjects in arts and sciences colleges. These partners will work together to make sure students are learning what they need to know, and what the state expects them to teach.

        “We are talking about making teacher education an all-university responsibility,” said Daryl Siedentop, interim dean of the OSU College of Education.

        Wright State University and Ohio University will create similar partnerships between their education and arts and sciences colleges.

        Wright State's teacher education plan will emphasize the learning needs of children in urban schools. Ohio University will try to provide a greater understanding of math, science and computer technology to all its teacher trainees.

        Teaching students at the three universities also will be taught critical thinking and communication skills that can help them teach any subject. This would include training would-be teachers how to assess the various learning needs and abilities of their students.

        The initiative follows a national debate that has targeted teacher quality as an essential key to improving the education offered in public schools.

        Schools also face a nationwide teacher shortage. One estimate shows schools need to hire more than 2.2 million new teachers over the next 10 years.

        But as the Ohio Teaching-Learning effort moves forward, other schools, like the University of Cincinnati, are pushing ahead with their own efforts.

        Many UC education students must earn degrees in English, math or a science before they can graduate with diplomas to teach these subjects, said UC spokesman Greg Hand.

        UC graduates also must complete a year's worth of in-classroom training before they can graduate, compared to an average 10 weeks of classroom experience required by many other colleges.

        Although he said he supports tougher requirements for teacher education, Lawrence Johnson, dean of the UC College of Education, said he hadn't heard about the Teaching-Learning Initiative.

        “I'm not sure about this effort and what's going on with it,” Mr. Johnson said.

        The initiative also was news to Tom Mooney, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers. The OFT represents teachers employed by Cincinnati Public Schools.

        Mr. Mooney said state leaders might want to get teachers' advice on the best way to train new teachers.

        “You can't improve the teaching profession without including the teaching profession,” he said. “This (initiative) could be good, but we need to know the particulars.”


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