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UA-Educated Teachers Get High Marks, Again
In the second year the Arizona Department of Education has administered a teacher-preparation survey of principals, results indicate that UA-educated teachers starting their careers most often meet or exceed expectations.
For a second consecutive year, a survey administered by the Arizona Department of Education indicates principals believe University of Arizona-educated teachers most often meet or exceed expectations.
The state agency's survey was administered in March, capturing perceptions principals held about educators who completed a teacher preparation program in Arizona during the 2009-10 academic year.
Called the Teacher Preparation Program Completer Survey, findings indicate that teachers who studied at the UA met or exceeded expectations at a rate higher than the state average on every measure.
In fact, for the strongest designation, that a teacher "exceeds expectations" or is prepared above average, UA-educated teachers fared better than the state average for each of the 12 categories."This tell us that, in general, principals are happy with graduates and happier with Arizona graduates," said Renée Clift, the UA College of Education's associate dean for professional preparation.
"News from the ADE is great news," Clift said. "People are graduating well prepared and getting jobs. Now all of us – educators, businesses, policymakers and the general public – need to encourage to them stay in teaching and make a difference for a long time."
Other institutions reflected in the survey include Arizona State and Northern Arizona universities, Grand Canyon University, Pima Community College and Prescott College.
At the UA, students are able to train to become educators and receive state certification through independent teacher training programs offered in the UA the colleges of education, science, fine arts and agriculture and life sciences.
ADE administered the survey to principals for the first time last year, asking that they answer questions about new teachers who had graduated during the 2008-09 academic year. Survey results indicated that UA-educated teachers overwhelmingly met or exceeded expectations.
The current survey evaluated teaches based on 12 measures, asking principals to mark whether teachers did not meet expectations, somewhat met expectations, met expectations or exceeded expectations.
For UA alumni, results indicate that percentages for meeting or exceeding expectations are:
- For demonstrating in-depth knowledge on the subject being taught: 88.4 percent average for UA alumni, 86.4 for the state average.
- For creating an environment conductive to student learning: 84.8 percent for UA alumni compared, 83.7 for the state average.
- For implementing practices based on research and theories: 86.6 percent for UA alumni, 77.8 for the state average.
- For effective integration of technology: 82.8 percent for UA alumni, 78.9 percent for the state average.
- For incorporating differentiated instruction to meet all students' needs: 82.2 for UA alumni and 73.9 for the state average.
- For incorporating English language development standards: 76.8 percent for UA alumni compared to 72.7 for the state average.
Layne Trinkley said her training in the College of Science, along with additional courses she chose to take in the education college, helped prepare her to be able to address the particular needs of students of color and also those from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
"The UA was a really great experience, and the UA did a great job, so I am glad principals are recognizing that," said Trinkley, an Indiana native who trained in the UA College of Science Teacher Preparation Program, known as STCH.
Trinkley said she worked with "awesome" professors who worked to instill a community orientation in the students. She also said the requisite eight-week internship along with the student teaching experience helped ensure that not only was she prepared, but supported.
Trinkley, who earned her geology degree from the UA in 2009, now teaches astronomy at Desert View High School in Tucson.
She also earned $15,000 over a two-year period through the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program, which is administered by the National Science Foundation. The scholarship supports educators who work in schools with large percentages of students receiving free and reduced-priced lunch.
"I love my job, and I'm very lucky to be one of those people who can say I love my job and I love my kids," Trinkley said.
But many new teachers do face challenges, especially in the first three to five years, including self-doubt, feeling they are not supported and high burnout. To help new and experienced teachers, UA colleges offer a range of programs.
The College of Education maintains a professional preparation board, one that has been meeting for about 15 years. The group is comprised of UA faculty members from across campus and school administrators who share ideas for improving teacher-preparation programs, then work to implement positive changes.
The Mathematics Education Research, Teacher Preparation, and Outreach education group organizes outreach projects for teachers and also students and families.
The UA Center for English as a Second Language, which is invested in facilitating the teaching and learning of English and other languages, offers professional development workshops for English as a second language teachers monthly during the academic year.
Also, programs such as Teach Arizona and Math/Science Teacher Education and Retention Industry Partnerships now are offered in Chandler, expanding access to programs designed to strengthening the teaching workforce, especially in Arizona.
Clift said not only is it important to train and graduate future teachers, but it is crucial to continue supporting them while in the profession.
"Every semester we graduate students who are dedicated, students who want to make a difference and who are knowledgeable and ready to teach. This survey is a testament to that," Clift said.
"We must embrace these people," she said, "encourage them and create conditions that make them want to stay in the profession, and so they can afford to stay in the profession."
One new graduate, René L. Acereto, came to the UA undecided but this month earned his UA elementary education degree."Coming in as a male, minority and non-traditional student was really daunting for me – to be outside of the demographic of what people usually think a teacher should be," said Acereto, the college's outstanding senior of the year.
"But never in my life have I felt so much a part of a group as I was in the College of Education program," he said. "I think that speaks to the cohesion the UA promotes, and the general idea that teaching isn't just about the working relationship between teachers and students, but that it also happens among teachers as well."
Acereto begins working at Flowing Wells Jr. High School's Summer Learning Lab in June.
He said the program gave him the theoretical basis for becoming a strong teacher, and the practical skills necessary to reach students of varying backgrounds and experiences.
In particular, he appreciated the extensive classroom contact hours and being taught to meet students where they are instead of taking a top-down approach to instruction.
"With the College of Education, as soon as you get there they really promote volunteer opportunities and even require 30 hours during your junior year," Acereto said, noting that seniors must lead classes for a full semester.
"I have the skill set of being a teacher and the mindset of being on the other side of the desk and knowing what's going on in the community," he said. "That gives me a better idea of how to approach the students."