New teaching program at UAF in the works

Posted: Monday, December 11, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The University of Alaska Fairbanks, hoping to train more teachers for the state's rural schools, is working to reinvent and revive a four-year teaching program.

The school wants to regain membership in the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, a complicated process that will take until 2006.

''NCATE accreditation has very, very specific requirements in so much detail, it's incredible,'' said Roger Norris-Tull, UAF's dean of education. ''It's extremely valuable, but it's like going through an IRS audit while getting a root canal.''

Superintendents around the state have had increasing difficulty trying to fill vacant teaching positions in the last few years, and have asked UAF to help.

''There is a crisis in our teacher pool,'' said Yukon Flats School District Superintendent Carla Sheive. ''There is no teacher pool anymore.''

Sheive said one of the reasons is the lack of a four-year teaching program.

After UAF lost its NCATE accreditation in 1997, the four-year program was disbanded in favor of a fifth-year baccalaureate program. What that meant was students would get their degree in, say history, English or mathematics, then take a one-year certification program to teach.

The number of students going into teaching plummeted.

''Major universities Outside offer four-year programs,'' said Sheive. ''Why would they make (Alaska students) go through an extra year and keep them out of the job market?''

The new four-year program won't much resemble the old one UAF offered. ''It wasn't a good program, there's no way around that,'' Norris-Tull said. ''We are pushing ahead at an absolutely flat-out pace to get this in place by fall,'' Norris-Tull said.

UAF is also adding new graduate degrees in education. Last year's reading-concentration master's program has ''the applications flowing out of the mailbox,'' Norris-Tull said.

A program planned for next fall is specially designed for those who just want to be better teachers, Norris-Tull said.

University leaders hope the program additions will reinvigorate the education department and change the image of teacher education at UAF.

''I think a few people around here are picking up that things are changing,'' Norris-Tull said. ''We've been having a huge increase in graduate enrollment.''

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