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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.