UW Dean: Bar has been raised for new education students

2014-07-22T08:30:00Z UW Dean: Bar has been raised for new education studentsBy LEAH TODD Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
July 22, 2014 8:30 am  • 

CASPER, Wyo. — An associate dean in the University of Wyoming College of Education responded to recent critiques of her college by saying she would love to talk with anyone about the program and its students.

Leslie Rush, associate dean of undergraduate programs in the college, said the college has increased its requirements for entry by requiring a higher composite ACT score than the university at large.

No representative from the College of Education was present when conversation turned to the college during three days of UW Board of Trustees meetings in Casper last week. It was there that lawmakers, a community college president and a policy adviser in Gov. Matt Mead’s office questioned the quality of the College of Education, and discussed how the college could become more involved in the state’s K-12 education system.

Increasingly, UW graduates are competing with more experienced teachers from other states, Rush said.

“I think we’re seeing people relocating to Wyoming because of our high salaries,” Rush said. “And I see that as a good thing.”

UW produces about 250 new teachers each year, according to Wyoming Department of Workforce Services data.

But in an average year more teaching jobs open than new UW graduates can fill. Between the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, nearly 600 teachers relocated, changed jobs or retired, the state data suggests.

It’s not yet known how many of the state’s roughly 7,500 teachers hold degrees from the University of Wyoming’s College of Education, said Tom Gallagher of the research and planning division at the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. According to a survey conducted by the university’s Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center last year, 114 of 145 recent graduates surveyed — or about 79 percent — were employed in Wyoming.

Seven of 10 Wyoming teachers who received this year’s Teacher Achievement Award from Arch Coal Inc. earned degrees from UW, though not exclusively through its College of Education.

Speaking after trustees’ meetings concluded Thursday, UW President Dick McGinity said critiques were not limited to the College of Education.

“We have this whole education system, ... and questions are being asked at each stage of that whole continuum, that whole system,” McGinity said.

The College of Education is not going to address those frustrations by itself, he said.

“But the question is being asked, well, can the College of Education play more of a leadership role in improving the effectiveness of that whole system?” McGinity said. “I would think the answer is yes.”

McGinity asked former College of Education Dean Kay Persichitte to step down in October. McGinity was interim vice president for academic affairs at the time under then-president Bob Sternberg, whose tenure at UW lasted fewer than five months.

The college is now being led by interim Dean Michael Day, a former professor in the college who retired in 2012.

College criticism

Mary Kay Hill, a policy adviser to Gov. Matt Mead, said she now withdraws her comment that the best teachers in Wyoming aren’t coming from the University of Wyoming. Hill made the statement during three days of UW Board of Trustees meetings in Casper last week, where legislators and trustees discussed how the college could better meet the needs of the state.

“My intent was to be very positive about what I see as an opportunity,” Hill said Monday.

She said the College of Education could become more involved in the state’s K-12 educational system. She cited a report conducted in 2011 for the Joint Education Committee that suggested about 33 percent of new teachers hired in Wyoming were from the University of Wyoming as recently as 2010. Between 2000 and 2003, however, that number was more than 50 percent.

“My comments last week were directed toward the need to work with the College of Education to assure that they become the best resource for Wyoming school districts in both hiring and professional development needs,” Hill wrote in an email Monday to a professor who had asked to see data behind Hill’s claim.

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