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The Education Imperative
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Spring 2004
Beyond Rhetoric
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"I wanted to come to a tough school," Morris says of her choice to join the faculty at Locke. "I expected that there would be challenges here, but I wanted that. I also knew that this was a place where I could go into any niche I wanted because basically everything was wide open. This was a place where I knew I could make a difference."

Once considered a boutique program that produced few credentialed teachers, UCLA's Teacher Education Program (TEP) in the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies has doubled its number of annual graduates in the past seven years. Last year, 170 students completed the program to receive their master of education degree and a full teaching credential. UCLA, in fact, supplied more credentialed teachers to the Los Angeles Unified School District than any other teacher-preparation program in the 2002-'03 school year, according to an LAUSD report on recruitment, outpacing even California State University campuses, which collectively constitute the largest producer of teachers in the state.

"UCLA's Teacher Education Program does much more than provide our district with excellent, dedicated teachers," says LAUSD Superintendent Roy Romer. "TEP works hand-in-hand with us to make teaching relevant to a school's community, to meld the latest pertinent research with classroom teaching, to encourage professional development and to keep teachers on the job."

The transformation of UCLA's program comes amid increased public and political pressure to improve student achievement, which in turn has shined a bright light on teacher quality. California's drive to reduce class sizes, launched in the mid-1990s, dramatically increased teacher demand by offering school districts financial incentives for smaller K-3 classes. But it also carried the unintended consequence of increasing the percentage of uncredentialed teachers in the classrooms, according to state-commissioned reports. Moreover, regulators, educators and elected officials now are wrestling with how best to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which requires, in part, that states provide all K-12 students with a "highly qualified" teacher by 2005-'06.

"There's a great debate in the education community about the essential characteristics of effective teachers — how much subject knowledge is necessary, how much experience in the classroom is needed and how best to acquire these skills," says Brian M. Stecher Ph.D. '82, a senior social scientist at the RAND Corp. in Santa Monica who studies education issues.

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