Introduction to Watson College
The Watson College of Education (WCE) is located in one of the most highly respected public universities in the country, the University of North Carolina Wilmington. (For example, see Seahawk Points of Pride and our Vision and Mission.)
The Watson College has become known not just in the region and state but also nationally for its outstanding faculty, students, academic programs and facilities, and its robust partnerships with local school systems and community agencies. In our undergraduate and graduate (master’s and doctoral) programs, we prepare highly qualified teachers and administrators who will make significant contributions to the improvement of K-12 schools, preschools and related settings, and to the learning of B-12 children and youth. Our programs are approved by NCATE (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education), with our next review taking place during the 2013-2014 academic year. In addition, we provide graduate degree programs for those whose intention is to work in professional staff positions on college and university campuses and as instructional technology specialists for a wide variety of settings.
To keep this document relatively brief, three indicators of excellence in the Watson College are highlighted:
The first indicator involves the academic qualifications of the students who enroll in our programs. On the undergraduate level, for example, during the last two academic years students admitted to the College (typically during their sophomore year or start of their junior year) had an average undergraduate grade point average of 3.40 and graduated with an average grade point average of 3.58. The average SAT score of admitted students was 1075 in fall 2011 and 1082 in fall 2012. Moreover, our most recent data for the pass rate of our students on the Praxis Specialty Area Tests indicates that 98% receive a passing grade, as compared to the 97% average pass rate from all institutions in North Carolina. (Praxis tests are administered by the Educational Testing Service and taken by individuals seeking to enter the teaching profession as part of the certification process in many states.)
A second set of indicators emerges from the ongoing assessment and continuous improvement process in which our College engages. On a regular basis, we collect, analyze, summarize, and report information on our students, graduates, faculty, and programs. Rather than focusing primarily on what we provide to students (inputs) – e.g., course syllabi, weeks spent student teaching, etc. – we seek to gain information about how our graduates perform when they are teaching in the classroom or engaging in other professional responsibilities.
In Spring 2013, for instance, the WCE Assessment Office administered the WCE Employer Feedback Survey to employers of our alumni who graduated one, three, five and seven years ago. The purpose of the survey is to garner employee perspectives of our graduates’ proficiencies related to the mission and value statements of our College (see www.uncw.edu/ed/mission.html). Such data provides us with helpful feedback on how we are doing in preparing our students to work in K-12 schools. Forty-six employers completed the survey. Most were school principals (85%). Others included school superintendents, central office administrators, and department/division heads.
Results of the survey were overwhelmingly positive, with the majority of employers agreeing or strongly agreeing with all items. That is, overall, according to these supervisors, WCE graduates:
- Have the knowledge and skills needed to be a proficient educational professional.*
- Work well with others in the organization.*
- Work well with external organizations (e.g., businesses, foundations, community organizations).
- Work well with diverse communities (e.g., organizations, groups).
- Effectively engage learners.*
- Effectively assess learning.
- Demonstrate appropriate professional dispositions and values.*
- Use research-based practices.
- Are committed to advancing the education profession.
- Advocate to improve schools.
- Advocate to improve society.
- Value diversity in teaching and learning.
- Uphold ethical standards to ensure just and respectful educational practices.*
- Use their understanding of global perspectives and practices to inspire connections and erase boundaries.
- Adopt new ideas/innovations to meet changing societal needs.
- Develop new ideas/innovations to meet changing societal needs.
- Demonstrate an attitude of inquiry (e.g., question, investigate, explore, problem solve).
- Develop nurturing environments essential for growth, positive relationships, and new ideas.
- Engage in continual reflection for learning, growth, and change.
*The five items with asterisks were the highest rated in the above listing.
Additionally, on open-ended items several employers noted that WCE graduates demonstrated particular proficiency in the following areas:
- Instructional strategies
- Knowledge of curriculum/content
- Collaboration with colleagues
We think these results provide important evidence of the quality of programs that we offer to students who seek to become highly effective B-12 teachers. Other data comes from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, which recently released data, as part of the Race to the Top initiative, that provide a summary of how WCE teacher education graduates in their first three years of teaching were rated by their supervisors (e.g., principals) on the North Carolina Professional Teaching Standards. These standards are as follows:
- Standard 1: Teachers demonstrate leadership.
- Standard 2: Teachers establish a respectful environment for a diverse population of students.
- Standard 3: Teachers know the content they teach.
- Standard 4: Teachers facilitate learning for their students.
- Standard 5: Teachers reflect on their practice.
- Standard 6: Teachers contribute to the academic success of students.
(For more information about these standards, see www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/effectiveness-model/ncees/instruments/teach-eval-manual.pdf.)
One possible response on the survey is “Not Demonstrated.” None of the 326 WCE graduates (0%) received such a rating. Other categories were “Developing,” “Proficient,” “Accomplished,” and “Distinguished,” with 93%-95% of our graduates being rated as either proficient, accomplished or distinguished in just their first three years of teaching. Again, we think that such data provides evidence of the high quality of our teacher education students and the excellent preparation that they receive in the Watson College of Education.
In addition, the UNC System conducted Teacher Quality Research, presented as the 2013 Teacher Preparation Program Effectiveness Report. Teachers who were graduates of UNCW performed at about the same level or better than teachers from other public universities in the state, private universities in the state, and out-of-state universities. Middle school mathematics, elementary school reading, and elementary school science teachers from UNCW performed notably well. In a 2011 report, a similar pattern was observed in the areas of middle school mathematics and elementary school reading, as well as all high school subjects. UNCW was one of only four institutions of the 15 public universities (with colleges or departments of education) in the state to receive such results in two or more areas.
More specifically regarding our graduates, they have recently been recognized as, for example:
- 2013 NAASP [National Association of Secondary School Principals] Dr. Ted Sizer High School Dissertation Award recipient for research on rural turnaround schools in North Carolina
- Assistant Principal of the Year in Onslow County
- Beginning Teacher of the Year at J.W. McLauchlin Elementary School in Raeford, NC
- High School Teacher of the Year in New Hanover County
- Principal of the Year in New Hanover County
- Principal of the Year in Pitt County
- Teacher of the Year in New Hanover County
- Teacher of the Year in Pender County
This listing of awards and achievements by our graduates could go on and on.
And finally, the outstanding quality of the Watson College can also be gleaned from our efforts to work not just with prospective B-12 teachers and administrators (and professional staff members in higher education and other settings) but with current ones as well. Along with our graduate (master’s and doctoral) degree programs, we make an extraordinary number of professional development opportunities available to them, many at no cost, through our Professional Development School (PDS) System. For example, during the past (2012-2013) academic year, we collaborated with 144 partner schools in 12 school districts and two charter schools. A total of 11,026 partnership teachers, school administrators, university faculty, interns and other school partners (some counted more than once) participated in 17 professional development conferences (on such topics as media literacy, integrating technology, ideas and insights, conducting research, and academically and intellectually gifted); 333 seminars; 53 partnership orientations and teacher intern preparations (with online sessions developed for each and now offered continuously); and 15 other professional initiatives – for a total of 418 sessions with 19,665 contact hours. While not all of the participants were our graduates, a high percentage were, which testifies to their embrace of the need for teachers to be lifelong learners.
We provide assistance to B-12 teachers and administrators and to B-12 students in a number of other “outreach” initiatives, in an effort to help improve policies and practices. These include the following 10 examples, among others:
- Assistive Technology and Demonstration Lending Site
- Betty Stike Education Laboratory
- Center for Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
- Dropout Prevention Coalition
- Educating Language Minority Students project
- First Years of Teaching Support Program
- Junior Seahawk Academy
- National Board Certification Support Program
- Reading Recovery Program
- Youth Programs, including Marine Quest
Such efforts are an integral part of the culture of the Watson College and cannot be listed here in their entirety. (See our College website for more information: http://www.uncw.edu/ed/.)
There is always room for improvement, for example in the academic preparation of our students, the programs offered in our College, the performance of our graduates, our outreach efforts, and so forth. Our assessment processes are in large part intended to assist us in a consideration of possibilities. We are continually in search of ways to help our current students and graduates (and others) to be more effective in their chosen profession. At the same time, we believe we have sufficient evidence to claim that the Watson College of Education is in fact an exemplary academic unit that makes significant contributions to the preparation and development of exceptional teachers, administrators and other education professionals.