UA to improve teacher programs
Arizona Daily Star
June 21, 2008

Better K-12 math, science education aim of several new degree programs

By Aaron Mackey  

Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/education/244791

FLAGSTAFF University of Arizona officials hope to better prepare future teachers by creating several new degree programs aimed at improving the state's K-12 education system.

The Arizona Board of Regents approved more than a dozen new UA academic programs during a two-day meeting this week, many of which are geared at increasing expertise in K-12 math and science education.

Too often, teachers who end up leading science and math classes aren't properly qualified or lack a background in the fields, officials said.

Additionally, a national study by the National Council on Teacher Quality set to be released next week found that university education programs including the UA's don't do a good enough job of preparing elementary school teachers adequately to teach math.

With the new programs such as a master's degree in middle-school-mathematics leadership the goal is to provide teachers with the resources they need to succeed in the classroom, UA Provost Meredith Hay said.

"Nationally, there just aren't enough science and math teachers," she said.

The degree programs fit in with UA's goal of increasing the overall number of K-12 educators while also responding to the state's needs, Hay said.

UA has an obligation to serve the state by training qualified educators, but preparing future teachers is only part of the solution, President Robert Shelton said.

"We need to look at why teachers are leaving the classroom after two or three years," he said. "These programs will not solve all the problems."

The programs were approved as part of a new academic strategic plan that allows UA to more easily create and change existing academic programs.

The plan also increases the degree offerings at the university's Sierra Vista campus and other extensions throughout the state.

Other changes as part of the strategic plan include renaming two academic departments, which will now be known as schools.

The changes, which result in the renamed School of Journalism and the School of Planning, will allow the programs to better receive grants and recruit quality faculty and students, according to the strategic plan.

Several regents asked that the three state universities take their academic strategic plans a step farther, allowing regents to get a better understanding of student demand for current and new degree programs.

By collecting better data on how academic programs are used, the universities could be more responsive to the needs of future students, regent Anne Mariucci said.

"We need to understand our programs from some relative supply and demand so we can understand where our resources lie," she said.

● Contact reporter Aaron Mackey at 807-8012 or at amackey@azstarnet.com.