On Tuesday, June 18th the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) published ratings of teacher education programs in the U.S. News & World Report. The NCTQ Teacher Preparation Review collected limited data on more than 1,100 colleges and universities that prepare elementary and secondary teachers across the nation. The stated goal of this review is to serve as a consumer tool to prospective students when choosing a teacher preparation program and to principals and superintendents when recruiting graduates to their school districts.
At Southern Miss, we encourage prospective students to be informed consumers when choosing their teacher preparation program and principals and superintendents to be informed when recruiting graduates to their school districts. Therefore, the Professional Education Unit at Southern Miss maintains a public data website where all constituents can review our teacher candidate performance to make an educated decision about the quality of our programs: https://www.usm.edu/education-psychology/epp-data.
It may also be useful to provide some context regarding the use of the NCTQ Review as a consumer tool. For example, it does not represent a comprehensive review of teacher preparation programs. Instead, the NCTQ Review relies primarily on the review of course syllabi and textbooks. It does not address critical outputs of teacher education programs related to knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions necessary to have a positive impact on students and increase student learning outcomes. Furthermore, the NCTQ standards are not evidence-based nor does the research methodology meet the standards of basic scientific research. In fact, NCTQ acknowledges in its report that the review is not comprehensive, the data are document-derived and in some cases outdated, the sample is biased, and standards are not consistently applied across colleges and universities.
The Professional Education Unit at Southern Miss is dedicated to continuous improvement of our teacher education programs, and we embrace accountability and transparency through a number of performance indicators. All educator preparation programs at Southern Miss are fully accredited by the National Commission for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and participate in a continuous self-study process. The programs are also approved through the Mississippi Department of Education whereby we annually participate in the Mississippi Educator Preparation Program Process and Performance Review. Southern Miss also submits annual reporting data to multiple regulatory bodies including the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and the Federal Title II Institutional and Program Report Card. In other words, we understand and embrace accountability.
The fact is we take our responsibilities very seriously and remain committed to meeting and exceeding national standards regarding teacher preparation. The standards we are measured by, however, need to be based on sound research principles. The process of evaluation should also represent recognized standards of research. Our prospective students, current students, graduates, and other stakeholders deserve nothing less.
This past weekend I had the distinct privilege of participating in a reunion of graduates of the USM Summer Program for Graduate Education (SPGE). Individuals attended from as far away as Australia, Alaska, and Michigan. It was great fun to meet the graduates and hear them enthusiastically recall their experiences at USM and detail the impact of those experiences on their lives.
There were several recurring themes throughout the weekend. First, the graduates expressed that the SPGE program deeply affected them and changed the direction of their lives. Their testimonies reaffirmed that we must continue to measure the value of the education we provide in the College of Education and Psychology by including those two metrics. We must remain committed to providing educational experiences that make a profound impact and lasting imprint on our students’ lives.
Secondly, SPGE graduates credited the quality of USM faculty as the primary reason for the powerful impact of the program. They described the faculty as accessible, responsive, and engaged. They shared entertaining examples of classes that were intellectually challenging and richly rewarding. Graduates singled out Drs. Art Sutherland, Harold Knight, Hershel Peddicord, Charles Davidson, Bobby Moore, and William “Bill” Ferguson. I was reminded that our profession affords opportunities every day for faculty, staff, and administrators to intentionally invest in students. The return on that investment is evident in the multiple ways that society benefits from an educated populace.
The last recurring theme involved the vision and legacy of Dr. Paul Peddicord, Director of SPGE, who was responsible for its creation in 1978. SPGE graduates lauded him for his leadership and work ethic. Their tributes accentuated the warmth he extended to students, the personal interest he expressed in their challenges and goals, and the diligence he demonstrated in ensuring a quality academic experience for SPGE students. Everyone understood that as an administrator and faculty member he intentionally invested in students. As a dean, I celebrate the faculty members in the College of Education and Psychology that emulate him.
Christine French and Dr. Paul Peddicord, Director, USM Summer Program for Graduate Education
On June 14, the J. B. George Building was dedicated in honor of the third president of The University of Southern Mississippi. It was a wonderful event made more special by George family members that attended the dedication. I had the distinct pleasure of visiting with many of them, including President George’s daughters and their children. The word “charming” comes to mind; the George family was engaging and had marvelous stories to share regarding President George and his progeny.
In reflecting on the event, I was struck by the personal and professional influence J. B. George exerted in spite of challenges he faced in life. He was orphaned at age 13, served our country in World War I, assumed his presidency following the Great Depression, and extended his tenure through the end of World War II. Despite the turmoil of the era, the institution survived and thrived under his leadership. In fact, President George was instrumental in expanding the mission of State Teachers College and renaming it Mississippi Southern College. Of particular note, his professional accomplishments were achieved while he was also successfully building a family.
I believe we can glean a great deal from the biography of J. B. George provided at the dedication and can use the information to evaluate our standards and inform our choices. For the College of Education and Psychology, his accomplishments serve to strengthen our commitment to excellence and to fortify our resolve to produce positive changes in our state through quality teaching, research, and service. It is an honor for our Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education to be located in the building bearing his name.
See related story at http://www.usm.edu/news/article/southern-miss-renames-building-honor-former-president-jb-george.
Each spring, two wonderful opportunities are available within the College of Education and Psychology that benefit scores of people. The two events are excellent illustrations and reminders of the impact of individual generosity.
The Lee K. Hildman Colloquium is funded by Dr. Tommie Hildman in honor of her late husband, a former professor in the Department of Psychology. The Colloquium is hosted by the Department of Psychology and features nationally recognized scholars who share compelling research with those in attendance. The Colloquium draws hundreds of participants and never fails to underscore the value and importance of our research mission.
The Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival is hosted by the School of Library and Information Science and includes participants from 46 states. It was renamed in 2001 in honor of Miss Kaigler, a retired elementary school teacher and native Mississippian. Miss Kaigler funded the Kaigler-Lamont Award given annually to a librarian or teacher for distinguished service to children. The Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival effectively undergirds our teaching mission by promoting literacy and excellence in children’s literature.
We applaud the generosity of Dr. Hildman, Miss Kaigler, and many others like them. Perhaps their example will encourage us to produce similar multiplicative effects through our own generosity.
Thinking well is wise; planning well, wiser; but doing well is the wisest and best of all. – Persian Proverb
The academic department chairs, associate dean, and I recently spent the better part of a day reviewing and revising the strategic plan for the College of Education and Psychology. From my perspective, this planning is an invaluable investment of time and energy. We engaged in rich dialogue, enjoyed good-humored banter, and renewed our commitment to the vision, mission, and goals of the College. We reaffirmed high standards for our work that translate into quality educational experiences for our students and faculty/student research that makes a difference for the citizens of Mississippi and beyond.
Our College Statement was expanded to explicitly incorporate support for faculty and staff. The past few years have been challenging; the College and University have dealt with shrinking resources coupled with increasing demands. Faculty and staff have responded professionally, and the College continues to grow. It is appropriate, however, to ensure an environment within the College that fosters personal and professional growth, recognition, and success for our colleagues. Human capital is our most valuable resource; we want to protect that resource in the College of Education and Psychology. In my experience, it is fundamental to doing well.