Academic journal article Education

Formulating New Criteria for Teacher Candidate Selection

Academic journal article Education

Formulating New Criteria for Teacher Candidate Selection

Article excerpt

In an effort to improve the quality of education, states are demanding that American students master both core curriculum and instructional technologies -- "to assume their civic and social responsibilities in a democratic society, to compete in the global economy, and to benefit from postsecondary educational opportunities" (AFT, Resolution on Improving Teacher Quality, July, 1998). In order to actualize this outcome, states are also actively seeking to improve the quality of America's teachers as well as to satisfy the need for as many as one million new teachers by 2010 (Kantrowitz & Wingert, 2000),. Coinciding with these developments has been the passage of two federal laws that have also had an impact on teacher education since these have expanded educational opportunities of all students. The Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (Public Law 94-142) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (PL 93-112) specifically prohibit discrimination against disabled persons. Taken together, the mandate to improve the quality of public education including the teacher workforce and the laws requiring equal opportunities for all students point to a need for teacher education programs to carefully determine and structure the criteria used in admitting and graduating teacher candidates.

Historically, teacher education programs have sought to admit candidates who have the potential to succeed in the classroom --both as teacher candidates and as professional educators. The degree of attention colleges of education have paid to admission guidelines for teacher candidates has tended to be determined by the supply and demand of school districts within the state in which the college resides (Applegate, 1987). When the need for teachers is high as it is currently (Kantrowitz & Wingert, 2000), the degree of selectivity has historically tended to diminish. However, given the current need for classroom teachers to provide instruction that supports more advanced learning standards for students, it seems timely for renewed consideration of teacher education practices in screening for professional potential. More specifically, colleges of education need to devise means by which to set increasingly rigorous academic standards for teacher candidates while also attending to appropriate accommodations for handicapped college students as determined by law.

Students with learning disabilities (LD) are more commonplace in higher education now than they were in the past. It stands to reason, therefore, that more LD students could be expected to seek entry into teacher education programs even though this has not been well studied (Vogel & Adelman, 1997). Educators with disabilities have been found to be successful in the field of education (Gillmore, Merchant, & Moore, 1980; Keller, Karp, & Simula, 1992; Landers & Martin, 1983). Indeed, educators with a learning disability, speech impairment, hearing impairment, brain tumor, cerebral palsy, visual impairment, quadriplegia, malformation of the hands, and other physical disability have been deemed successful in their chosen profession (Keller, et al., 1992). These educators were provided with or made personal adaptations that supported their work in the field of education. Teacher candidates who are able to identify areas of need and who successfully devise appropriate support systems may well succeed in their chosen career.

More troublesome, perhaps, is the fact that selection procedures used by many teacher education programs have evolved in a remarkably arbitrary manner and may not give appropriate consideration to fundamental program requirements, to essential competencies for educators, or to issues involving equal access. Many mildly handicapped students have received high school diplomas, successfully entered college, and may have requested and received instructional modifications as part of an equal educational opportunity throughout their school experiences. …

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