Preparing Teachers for Quality Education

© Brad Slade

While it likely won’t help calm first-day-of-school jitters, parents and kids can rest easy knowing that qualified teachers educated at Utah universities have been carefully prepared and are ready to meet challenges in today’s classrooms.

“BYU and all of the universities and colleges in Utah attend diligently to professional standards to ensure their graduates have the necessary entry skills to begin teaching,” said Mary Anne Prater, dean of BYU’s McKay School of Education. “Then, over time, teaching experience coupled with professional development opportunities help teachers refine and enhance their skills.”

The Utah State Office of Education, the Utah Council of Education Deans, and the Utah Teacher Education Accreditation and Assessment Council are just a few of the statewide organizations contributing to quality teacher education in Utah by coordinating university standards.

Additionally the 10 Utah universities with teacher preparation programs work to maintain national accreditation through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Challenges of growth and change

The rapidly increasing diversity of Utah’s population continually presents new challenges and opportunities for teachers. Between 2010 and 2014, Utah gained 179,000 new residents, approximately 40 percent from minority cultures and ethnicities.

Diana Suddreth, director of teaching and learning for the Utah State Office of Education, said changing demographics mean teachers need additional help.

“They need professional development that will give [them] tools and a multi-tiered system of support to help [them] first concentrate on primary instruction and then [on] increasingly intensive intervention for struggling students,” Suddreth said.

Preparing Utah educators is no small task. In 2014–2015 there were more than 27,000 classroom teachers, 4,000 education specialists, and 1,700 district and school administrators. As new educators join the education system each year, learning to educate is a continuing process. Local districts throughout Utah provide professional development to enhance practicing teachers’ knowledge and skills.

Preparation of quality educators

Higher education training programs in Utah are guided in maintaining quality as they meet accreditation standards. For a university unit to gain accreditation, its programs are evaluated against a comprehensive set of standards to assure the public that specific critical requirements are being met.

Teacher preparation programs in all 10 universities in Utah are nationally accredited. This past spring Brigham Young University, Weber State University, Southern Utah University, and Dixie State University renewed their accreditation statuses. The traditional bar set for accreditation has recently been raised, but all of these universities are meeting or surpassing the higher standards. Utah State University’s Emma Eccles Jones College of Education ranked 24th on the 2014 U.S. News and World Report list of best schools of education.

Two statewide organizations—the Utah Council of Education Deans, consisting of the deans of education from the 10 universities and colleges across the state of Utah, and the Utah Education Assessment Council—consult often about best research-based practices for preparing teacher candidates and focus on understanding and implementing proven methods for improving education.

“We are working closely with the deans of the educator programs,” Suddreth said. “It is an ongoing relationship and effort. A few years ago we established the Educator Effectiveness Standards, [which are] goals for where teachers want to be as well as evaluation tools.”

Utah County universities

Utah County universities are typical of those striving to continue helping educators improve.

The School of Education at Utah Valley University plans to build an Autism Support Center to help individuals with autism spectrum disorders and provide education students with valuable teaching and clinical experience.

Additionally the McKay Education Building at UVU is being remodeled to add live-interactive facilities to the classrooms, enhancing candidates’ opportunities for pre-professional experience.

© Brad Slade

BYU operates one of the largest teacher preparation programs in the United States, graduating about 800 new teachers each year. Approximately 10 percent of all BYU students are involved in teacher education. BYU’s teacher preparation programs have been continuously accredited on a national level since 1954.

At the BYU McKay School of Education, the Center for Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling (CITES) offers endorsement programs to current teachers who want to return and receive specialized training and certification to enhance their teaching credentials. CITES offers coursework leading to the Utah Elementary Mathematics Endorsement, reading endorsements for elementary and secondary teachers, and a gifted and talented endorsement. In addition, CITES will soon offer endorsements for the STEM disciplines—science, technology, engineering, and math.

CITES coordinates initiatives and activities of the BYU–Public School Partnership, a partnership to improve both teacher education and K–12 schooling through collaboration involving BYU and five public school districts. This collaboration enables the BYU educator preparation programs to more closely fit the current needs of public school students.

“I think the educator preparation programs in Utah are excellent,” Suddreth said. “Utah has a large number of very good teachers, born out of student achievement.”

Writers: Fran Djoukeng and Lindsey Williams

Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922