Watson Chronicle


Watson College News

Dean's Discourse

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Dean Teitelbaum and  Denise Battles

Another academic year begins.  The campus looks beautiful; the weather is comfortably warm (OK, sometimes hot); our students are eager; and hopefully we are all feeling re-energized for an exciting and fulfilling year.

At our first College-wide meeting of the year on August 14, I spoke about “The Ugly, the Bad, and the Good” (playing off the classic 1966 Italian western movie).  My basic premise is two-fold:  First, as Raymond Williams has written, “We must speak for hope, as long as it doesn’t mean suppressing the nature of the danger.”  We must be well-informed about the challenges we face, but we must also allow ourselves to be heartened by the great work that we do.  And second, as the musical group Sweet Honey in the Rock puts it, “We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for.”  While we seek to join with others, there is no reason to wait for anyone else to address what needs to be attended to.

The “ugly” refers to the recent ratings of teacher education programs by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).  While we did relatively well (tied for second among 16 institutions in the state), the NCTQ survey is strikingly simplistic.  For example, it adopts standards for which there is no evidentiary support; relies on a very limited number of inputs (course syllabi and websites), with little consideration of quality outputs (student feedback and performance); ignores alternative certification programs (so there is no point of comparison); and contains numerous inaccuracies of omission and commission that have been well documented.  Unfortunately, the NCTQ ratings have gotten national attention, helped by US News and World Report. An indirect response from our college can be found on our website under “Indicators of Excellence,” at https://www.uncw.edu/ed/excellence.html.

The “bad” refers to recent legislation passed by the NC General Assembly and approved by Governor McCrory.  This has to do with both the 2.5% budget reduction that the university is facing this year (with another 0.8% cut planned for next year) as well as the legislation addressing K-12 education.  By the latter I am referring to, for example, the $10 million set aside for vouchers for private school attendance; elimination of teacher tenure, with contracts now being renewed based on “performance measures”; no salary raises for teachers and the elimination of salary increases for teachers who earn master’s degrees (except for those whose jobs require advanced degrees); reduction of teaching assistants by 21 percent; increase in the percentage of uncertified elementary teachers who can teach in charter schools; and continued phasing out of the Teaching Fellows Programs while $12 million is provided to the Teach for America program.  These policies undermine public education, denigrate the teaching profession, and will lead to further discouragement among those currently in or planning to enter the field. 

But – there is also much that is good for us to celebrate, much to “speak for hope.”  A few examples:  enrollments at UNCW generally and in our graduate programs specifically have increased; our college has secured Hattie M. Strong Foundation Scholarships to support two student interns each year; we have entered into a partnership with the Southeast Education Alliance, with their office now located in our college; we have major grant-funded projects that, e.g., provide important professional development to teachers who work with English language minority students and in the STEM fields; our PDS system has expanded to 144 schools; we have a new Office of Academic Advising on the first floor of our building; attendance in our international programs is growing, with students and faculty working in Belize, Costa Rica, Kuwait, Japan, and South Africa; renowned scholar Sonia Nieto joined us for our Public Speaker Series in the spring and Lisa Delpit is doing so in October; and, if I had more space, I could go on and on.  (Check out the rest of the Watson Chronicle!)

Of course what is most important is that we have outstanding, intelligent and earnest students; inspiring, collaborative and hardworking faculty who contribute excellent instruction in rigorous academic programs, important scholarship to their fields of study, and significant service to the campus, our school and community partners, and their professional organizations; and dedicated, highly skilled and supportive staff who in so many ways keep the College running smoothly.  That’s where the real hope lies, in the exceptional efforts of the many individuals and groups who make up the Watson College of Education.

Welcome back!  Let me know if there’s anything I can do to be helpful.  And – Go Seahawks!

Kenneth Teitelbaum