It is all about preparing teachers for the future.
Clarion University’s College of Education and Human Services is leading the way again in making sure its graduates meet the latest requirements to work in the classroom, even though the first set will not be effective until 2011 with the second series effective 2013.
The changes were prompted by revisions in the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) regulations. Dr. John Groves, Dean of the College of Education and Human Services supports the changes.
“This is a good thing,” said Groves. “For many years education and special education ran on parallel tracks. The new requirements emphasize inclusive education which prepares teachers to work in both areas regardless of certification.”
The new regulations are also designed to reflect students’ developmental stages. A national trend in education is placing an increased emphasis on primary and mid-level students in grades kindergarten through eight.
“Twenty years ago education emphasized the middle group in grades five through eight,” said Groves. “New research places a strong resource emphasis on grades kindergarten through fourth. For example, when students enter fourth grade the emphasis shifts from teaching them to read to having them learn from what they read. A solid base at that point serves them well, if they don’t have it, they will be lost because there will be even bigger changes when they reach fifth and sixth grades.”
Clarion Ahead of the Rest
Groves, who encountered similar program changes when he worked in New Jersey, has coordinated the effort on campus to meet the requirements. Because education majors take courses in both the College of Arts and Sciences and in the College of Education and Human Services, collaboration was needed for success.
“The requirement influences all departments in both colleges,” said Groves. “The Pennsylvania Department of Education, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Education Testing Service all require competency exams. These exams influence curriculum within all teacher certification programs.”
An indication of success is that Clarion University will begin meeting the new education requirements in fall 2008, well ahead of the January, 2011 deadline.
“We are ahead of many PASSHE schools because of the efforts of retired interim dean of education, Dr. Nancy Sayre, who pushed education and special education to get the curriculum on a standards base,” said Groves. “The faculty responded successfully to this effort.
“Clarion has also been aided by the faculty’s university-wide endorsement of a standards based general education program. This means it has been easier to coordinate curriculum with the College of Arts and Sciences. This is an advantage we have over our sister institutions.”
Groves believes the process is also good for the College of Education and Human Services. “The state has given us a real opportunity to complete a curriculum review of all the teacher certification programs,” he said. “It is opportunity those in higher education might get once in a career.”
All of the work has resulted in revisions in the College of Education and Human Services’ degree offerings in Early Childhood Education, Special Education and in a new dual certificate Special Education with Early Childhood Education at 126 credits. The K-12 and secondary programs range from 120 - 126 credits.
Freshman will Experience the Change
Returning sophomores and juniors will be able to graduate with nine additional credits in special education and with three credits in English Language Learners (ELL) education. The certificate programs have been adjusted so that most students will complete their education with 120 credits. The incoming freshman, the class of 2012, will be the first to complete an education degree under the new certificate regulations. Students accepted into this class will be required to satisfy certification regulations for either early childhood (K-4), the mid-level (4-8) or at the secondary level (9-12).
“In-coming students are attuned to these certification changes and are looking for them when they pick their college,” said Groves.
More Changes Coming
The work is not completed. Clarion is designing programs to meet the new certificate regulations. In the planning phase are:
•Elementary mid-level (4-8) requiring 120 credits for completion,
•Elementary mid-level (4-8) with special education requiring 147 credits to earn both the bachelor’s and master’s degrees with both teaching certifications,
•Reading Intervention with special education requiring 147 credits to earn a bachelor’s degree in special education with reading and special education teaching certificates,
•Post-baccalaureate programs in special education, early childhood and elementary mid-level teaching certificates, and
•Graduate program in special education, advanced study.
“We believe these curricular revisions will provide our students with many options,” said Groves. “Clarion University has always offered high quality programs at a fair cost. Our graduates will be prepared to compete in what will be new career paths. Most importantly, the programs are inclusive, designed to prepare teachers to help all students.”