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Spring 2004
Beyond Rhetoric
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Math Class
Color Photography by Gregg Segal

AT UCLA, THERE ARE SEVERAL AVENUES to a teaching credential. The core program requires a full-time commitment over two years to earn a master of education degree and a full credential. A second program, developed cooperatively with the UCLA math and science departments, enables undergraduates to complete a bachelor's degree while simultaneously beginning to meet their credentialing requirements — the route taken by Morris, who earned UCLA undergraduate degrees in marine biology and environmental science. A third provides a path for uncredentialed K-12 teachers to earn their preliminary credential through 15 months of coursework offered in the evenings and on weekends.

All three programs aim to prepare teachers for where they are needed most — urban schools in low-income neighborhoods.

About 12 percent of California's K-12 public school teachers in 2002-'03 were "under-prepared," according to a report last year by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based non-profit organization that explores ways to strengthen California's teacher workforce. The center defined under-prepared as those teachers working without having met state requirements for a preliminary credential, which include a bachelor's degree, specialized coursework in teaching methods at an accredited certification program, supervised student-teaching experience and passage of competency exams. Students in high-poverty areas are nearly three times as likely to have an under-prepared teacher as students in more affluent neighborhoods.

"The students who live in our poorest communities, the children most in need of our best teachers, are assigned to teachers who are the least prepared to meet their needs," states the report, which was cosponsored by the University of California and California State University systems.

To help meet that long-standing need, UCLA education-school administrators revamped their Teacher Education Program in 1994. Since then, UCLA has forged partnerships with four subdistricts within LAUSD, as well as with three other districts: Centinela Valley Union High School District, Lennox School District and Lynwood Unified School District. UCLA teachers-in-training perform their classroom observations and student-teach exclusively at schools in these districts with high percentages of uncredentialed teachers and students receiving subsidized lunches (a standard measure of poverty).

"The feeling was, these were the places where teachers were most needed and where we could make the most difference," says Aimée Dorr, dean of the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. The change also made the Teacher Education Program consistent with the mission of the graduate school's Center X, which aims to reform urban education in Los Angeles County through a research-based, community-focused philosophy guided by social justice. Says Eloise Lopez Metcalfe '64, M.A. '83, Ph.D. '92, director of the Teacher Education Program: "We put our teachers where our rhetoric was."

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