With the bombardment of reform efforts affecting public schools today, I thought you might be interested in developments involving the preparation of new teachers.
 
The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma has produced effective educators since the 1920s when the college was known as Oklahoma College for Women.  That proud tradition of graduating quality teachers continues at USAO today.  While the preparation process has continually adapted to the demands and changes within existing school structures and within society, the commitment to producing effective teachers with the knowledge and heart to positively impact children has never wavered.  
 
USAO’s teacher preparation program has sought, and continues to seek, assistance from many partners as it goes about the work of preparing effective teachers for classrooms.  Recent input from a wide variety of stakeholders has resulted in the Fall 2013 launch of our Co-Teaching approach to the clinical component of teacher preparation.  Public school and teacher candidate representation on our Teacher Education Committee is valued for the perspectives they add in policy and process decisions.  Public comment and inquiry, once sought annually through the invitation to a public forum, is welcomed any time through the ePublic Forum on the USAO website.  The quality of our teacher preparation program is validated by the classroom success of our program graduates as well as through regular andrigorous external review by national accreditation bodies.  
 
All of our 10 individual certification areas have received national/state recognition from professional organizations with established high standards.  USAO’s teacher preparation program maintains the high standards required by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), most recently achieving continued accreditation status in 2009.  Oklahoma School for the Deaf has opened a satellite school in the campus building housing the Deaf Education program.  Curriculum adjustments in all certification programs have taken place to address current reforms such as Common Core State Standards and the Oklahoma Teacher/Leader Effectiveness system.  When our dedicated faculty and neighboring school partners became convinced that a co-teaching approach to student teaching would have a positive effect on student learning, we began steps for implementation.  Spring 2013 has been spent developing transition processes including trainings and redesign of documentation.
 
Clearly, we live in a time of great change.  Reform efforts abound.  As seen by the release of letter grades for Oklahoma public schools, the call for transparency and accountability are inherent in the reform climate.  Reports related to the state of education in the United States are plentiful.  Many of these reports are based on sound research and deserve careful consideration.  Some, however, need more scrutiny.  One of these reports, conducted by The National Council on Teacher Quality, is scheduled to be released in June.  Past reports from this group have received criticism related to the methodologies employed in the gathering and analyzing of data.  This current undertaking involves a “study” of teacher preparation programs across the country.  Past reports by this group suggest that we should expect depressed ratings with less than satisfactory grades for the majority of schools studied.  Many professional organizations including the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education have voiced concerns about this current “study.” 
 
Let me assure you that the tradition and history of quality teacher preparation established by USAO and others across the nation will not wane based upon this report. The rating in this report of programs within our state and nation are anticipated to be low.  Regardless, we remain steadfast in our efforts to document and report on our programs and program graduates.  We look forward to the full deployment of a statewide longitudinal P-20 student data system that will better enable us to link the learning accomplished by school children to the preparation of their teachers.  We value your support of the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and the USAO Teacher Education Program.  We remain dedicated to preparing ethical, effective, informed, and reflective teachers who are capable of innovative, independent practice and continued professional growth.  The teacher’s challenge is helping all children learn.  Supporting that effort is our challenge.  Children deserve nothing less.
 
Sincerely,
 
Vicki Ferguson
 
Director of Teacher Education