THERE IS SAD irony in the lowly reputation of teacher education. After all, don't we want those who would teach our children to be among society's best-prepared professionals?
Yet education faculty -- and students -- are disparaged at many colleges and universities. And there is evidence that education majors aren't of the highest quality: Scholastic Assessment Test scores of Maryland high school graduates who want to be teachers are second to last among 15 academic majors, according to the Maryland Higher Education Commission. (Business majors are last.)
Dennis E. Hinkle begs -- passionately -- to differ. He says it's a "misperception" that would-be teachers are academic stragglers. At Towson State University, where Hinkle is in his third year as dean of education, students have to have a B- scholastic average and pass the general knowledge part of the National Teachers Examination to become education majors, Hinkle says.
"Moreover, if you want to be a secondary teacher, you have to major in your [subject]; you can't major in education. So these statistics are terribly misleading. We maintain quality control. We don't just open our doors to anyone."
Hinkle, 53, heads Maryland's largest education school, with 60 faculty members and 650 student teachers in the field each year. "To get my 'kid fix,' " Hinkle volunteers as a third-grade teacher at Cromwell Elementary School in Baltimore County.
He was interviewed last week in his office on the Towson campus: How will teacher education in 2006 differ from teacher education in 1996?
There'll be major partnerships between universities and groups of schools. Much of teacher training will take place in schools rather than in university classrooms.
The model will be our first fully developed professional development school at Owings Mills Elementary. We've expanded that to two other Baltimore County schools and Jessup Elementary in Anne Arundel County. I expect to see professional development networks all over the state.
Two years ago, Maryland teacher education reformers recommended a 4-plus-1 model -- four years of college followed by a fifth-year internship. That became an option after a lot of protest. If teacher education can't justify a fifth year, how can teaching be called a profession?
I argue strongly that it's not a matter of time spent in preparation, but of expectations. What are we expecting teachers to do and how do we best prepare them to do it? It might take two years; it might take 22. There's nothing wrong with the 4-plus-1 approach. We have it at Towson in our MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) program. But it's one way to go among many.
What are you doing to prepare teachers to use computers and computer technology?
We're trying very hard not only to teach people how to gain access to knowledge through technology, but how to integrate that knowledge into the curriculum. Higher education has found LTC it harder [than public schools] to get the resources to purchase technology.
That's one reason we're actually selling computers here. We set up a store downstairs, and we give a good price to students, faculty and administrators on Apple products. Not only does it guarantee that we'll be state-of-the-art; we also turn the profits back into the program. I think we earned about $27,000 last year.
What do you think when you hear about the big computer companies donating second-generation computers to the schools?
Don't get me off on that one! It seems so generous, but much of this equipment is hand-me-down, and our kids are worth more than secondhand.
We keep hearing that there's going to be a huge teacher shortage, but it never seems to happen. What is the situation?
I think it never happened because teaching is still viewed as the job of a family's second wage earner. I think a lot of women nearing retirement age suddenly were confronted with their spouses being laid off, so they didn't retire as expected. But this has only prolonged the inevitable. This shortage is really going to hit us in the next couple of years.
What do you think about alternative approaches to teacher education that bypass traditional programs like yours -- such as Teach for America?
I try not to be defensive. I'd rather help shape the agenda. We have all the routes here. We have a program for helping returned Peace Corps people become teachers.
One important thing alternative programs have to do, though, is prepare teachers for those critical first days in the classroom. If they're not prepared, we might lose them, and we've lost a lot of potentially good teachers by simply throwing them in there.
Ericka Danyell Law, 17, graduated June 8 from Baltimore's Dunbar High School, not having missed a day of school in her 12 years at Commodore John Rodgers, Herring Run Middle and Dunbar. She'll be attending Frostburg State University in the fall.
John Dunlap, 18, graduated the same evening from Rising Sun High School in Cecil County. The next day he traveled to San Antonio, where he won the national Sons of the American Revolution oratorical contest Sunday against 13 opponents.
"My main objective was not to be humiliated up there," said Dunlap, who became interested in the art of argument as a page in both the Maryland General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives. He'll attend Gettysburg College this fall.
Pub Date: 6/16/96