State puts 2 education programs on probation

In a rare exercise of regulatory powers against private colleges, the State Department of Education has placed on probation teacher education programs at two prestigious liberal arts schools, Goucher College in Towson and Washington College in Chestertown.

State officials said the two programs were not in compliance with a "redesign" of teacher education ordered in 1995. Among other "weaknesses," state review teams found Goucher had not established "professional development schools" where teachers in training undergo extended on-the-job internships.


Goucher's undergraduate program was criticized for not following state guidelines known as "essential dimensions of teaching."

Washington College was censured for similar shortcomings. State reviewers also criticized the Eastern Shore school for failing to use technology "as a resource tool" and for conducting programs that, except for mathematics, do not comply with standards set by national organizations.


The probation period for both schools extends to fall 2002, but both vowed to correct deficiencies before the state conducts follow-up visits this fall.

The probation doesn't affect the certification of teachers at either school, and Goucher's acting president, Robert Welch, sent a letter to students and faculty last week saying the required changes, which he called "structural in nature," would be made quickly.

Washington College's program is small, graduating about 15 teachers a year, and the school does not offer an education major. "The substance of the program is fine," said college President John S. Toll. "We turn out very good teachers. We're going to have to make some procedural changes."

If the deficiencies aren't corrected and the schools lose their accreditation, their graduates could not be certified to teach in Maryland and the colleges could lose funding from the federal Higher Education Act of 1998, said Lawrence E. Leak, assistant state superintendent for certification and accreditation.

State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, whose letter last week informed the two schools of the probation, said she didn't expect that to happen. "These are both excellent schools with excellent students," she said. "I expect they will comply, and we'll give them all the technical assistance they need."

Of six other schools put on probation in recent years, only Hood College in Frederick and Columbia Union College in Takoma Park were independent. Twenty-two Maryland colleges and universities have teacher education programs.

Beth Garroway, head of the Maryland Independent College and University Association, called for more "flexibility" in the state-approval process.

"There's a big difference between state university programs like Towson and College Park," she said, "and small, independent programs like Goucher and Washington. We have to be careful. One size does not fit all."