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Topic: Teacher Preparation: Two-Year Colleges / Lynn Steen
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Jerry P. Becker

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Registered: 12/3/04
Teacher Preparation: Two-Year Colleges / Lynn Steen
Posted: Jun 7, 1998 9:35 PM
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FOCUS: The Newsletter of the Mathematical Association of America, Vol. 18,
No. 5, May/June 1998, p.6.


By Lynn Arthur Steen

In the wake of the abysmal performance by twelfth grade U.S. students on
the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), many
political leaders and policy experts have aimed their spotlights on a
significant and correctable deficiency: the large number of mathematics
teachers who have very poor preparation in mathematics. Thus in the space
of little more than a year, the challenge enunciated in MAA's 1991 report A
Call for Change has become a very visible national goal, attracting the
attention not only of U.S. Education Secretary William Riley, but also of
President Clinton.

Most MAA members are well aware of the responsibility of four-year colleges
to provide appropriate courses and programs of study for prospective school
teachers. Few realize, however, that two out of every five prospective
teachers--and well over half of Hispanic and African-American
teacher-candidates--study mathematics first at a two-year college. Indeed,
two-year colleges enroll 46% of all undergraduate mathematics students.

Recognizing the emerging but unheralded importance of two-year colleges in
the pipeline of teacher preparation, the National Science Foundation (NSF)
and the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC)
convened a conference last March to begin a process of strengthening such
programs in the nation's 1,200 two-year institutions.

At this conference, eleven innovative two-year college teacher-preparation
programs received awards in a ceremony at the National Academy of Sciences.
In congratulating the award winners, Academy President Bruce Alberts
observed that one reason science advances more readily than education is
that science continually learns from successes and failures whereas
education most often invents everything anew. These eleven programs,
Alberts observed, provide a foundation on which others should build.

Out-going NSF director (and now Presidential Science Advisor) Neal Lane
lauded two-year colleges for providing "the best of all possible
educational objectives": preparation for today's technological workforce
and habits of mind well-suited to teaching or other careers. He noted that
NSF investment in two-year college programs has climbed in just five years
from virtually nothing to well over $50 million annually.

Nonetheless, most teacher-preparation programs at four-year institutions
operate without any explicit coordination with their neighboring two-year
institutions. Many future teachers take their only introductory
mathematics and science courses at a two-year college, sometimes even
before they have selected teaching as a career. At the March conference,
representatives from both the Department of Education and the National
Science Foundation identified as an urgent national need increased
collaboration on issues involving teacher preparation between faculty at
two-year and four-year institutions (in mathematics, science, and education

Community colleges are a prime recruiting ground for prospective teachers.
Many are located in rural communities or in inner cities, directly serving
the needs of these communities. There is enormous potential to interest
students from these communities in the teaching of mathematics and science
with the goal of returning teachers to these same communities.

Partnerships and alliances between two- and four-year institutions for this
purpose would go a long way to strengthen the mathematical preparation of
children, especially in communities not now benefiting from mathematically
well-prepared teachers.

While separate programs do some good, they fall far short of fulfilling
their potential or meeting the nation's needs. What conference
participants called for are well-planned partnerships among two- and
four-year colleges to create attractive, cohesive, high-quality programs.

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

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