Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Making the grade for IU's School of Education

Only above-average students make the grade for IU's
education school
a letter to the editor in response to the misinformation in a recent column by Andrea is important to stay diligent and get the facts as we all work for better schools in Indiana--misrepresentation, political spin, and distortions get us nowhere.  Ms. Neal should not only be embarrased but she should apologize.

I am writing in response to Andrea Neal's Nov. 24 column on raising teacher standards. I agree that the way to improve schools is to improve teachers. To do that, as Neal suggested, it is essential to recruit the best and brightest into teaching and prepare them well to be effective teachers. But spreading misinformation about schools of education dilutes that effort.

In her column, Neal mistakenly suggests that U.S. teachers come disproportionately from the bottom third of their high-school cohort groups. She adds that Indiana University accepts into its teacher education program students with cumulative GPAs as low as 2.5 on a 4-point scale. The implication is that IU education students are selected from the bottom third of high school graduates.

The fact is that before students are admitted to the IU School of Education they first must earn admission to IU. On the Bloomington campus, the average high school GPA of entering freshmen this fall was 3.69 on a 4-point scale and their average SAT score was 1199. This puts the majority of IU entering freshmen in the top 10 percent of high school graduates in Indiana.

Among these top-ranked students admitted to IU, those interested in education as a major must apply to the School of Education and meet additional admissions requirements. These requirements include at least a 2.5 average GPA in freshmen and sophomore arts and science college courses and no grade lower than "C" in pre-professional education courses. In addition, students must pass the math, reading and writing portions of the Praxis teacher license test of basic skills, and complete specific requirements in the content field they will teach.

The actual average college GPA of students admitted to the School of Education in Bloomington this fall was 3.39 on a 4-point scale. The requirement of at least 2.5 GPA in college courses before admission to the School of Education is higher than that of most other academic units on the Bloomington campus, which typically require a minimum 2.0 GPA.

To attract even more high-performing students, last year the School of Education in Bloomington instituted a new Direct Admits Scholars program that guarantees admission to entering IU freshmen who have distinguished themselves as outstanding students in high school. The average high school GPA of students admitted to the School of Education through this program is 3.82 on a 4-point scale.

But the real test of a high-quality teacher education program is the performance of graduates. This year eight of the 10 finalists for Indiana Teacher of the Year were alumni of the IU School of Education in Bloomington and Indianapolis. The Teacher of the Year and the runner--up are graduates of the Bloomington program. Two of the four Indiana finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching announced a few weeks ago are IU School of Education alumni. That award is the highest recognition that a mathematics or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States, an award won by an alumna two years ago.

We should indeed learn from international comparisons, find ways to increase starting pay for teachers, and continuously strive to improve the pipeline of professionals for the classroom. A productive discussion, however, has to be based on facts and a more thorough understanding of how successful American schools of education prepare teachers. It serves no purpose to spread misinformation about schools that are doing an excellent job preparing teachers. To do so only undermines the effort to recruit top students into teaching.

Gonzalez is dean of the Indiana University School of Education.


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