Embracing our challenges as opportunities

Submitted by Jann Joseph | Published November 5, 2012

The beginning of the academic year is a time for reflection and planning. Last year the College of Education's (COE) focus was on renewal and stability; and with input from the faculty, Dr. Phil Smith (Department Head, Special Education) and Dr. Jon Margerum-Leys (Associate Dean, Students and Curriculum) are no longer interim. The COE Leadership Team is now solidly in place and positioned to sustain the outstanding reputation of the college.

We started the 2011-2012 school year seemingly surrounded by the perfect storm in higher education — particularly for colleges of education. Amidst the changing expectations for teachers and teacher preparation institutions, combined with polarized discourse about teacher effectiveness and K-12 student achievement, we weathered the storm and emerged with a clearer understanding of our changing roles.

The COE is enduring challenging times, but this is when we learn, plan, prepare and act. Beginning last academic year and continuing into this fall, the college is immersed in inclusive strategic planning. More than ever we recognize that many challenges we face can instead be viewed as opportunities to reposition our work and service.

The faculty and staff are closely monitoring Michigan's new certification rules and its impact on teacher professional development. We are pursuing partnerships with our community school districts and revising our programs. We are eagerly awaiting the recommendations of the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness, and our intent is to ensure that our preparation and graduate programs are aligned with how teachers will be evaluated in their classrooms.

The changing landscape for teacher preparation, including online classes and globalization, provides for excellent opportunities in the coming years. We are reviewing online offerings and considering ways to better prepare candidates for K-12 online teaching environments. Additionally, the college recently opened the Office of Urban, Community and International Outreach to sustain and grow our connections with local, regional, and international constituents and partners.

In 2010, more than 50 percent of the children born in the U.S. were ethnic minorities. The disability rate among children has also increased. More and more children are considered disabled, including 1 in 88 who are diagnosed as autistic. Classrooms are also changing and the COE is committed to ensuring that upon graduation, our students are prepared and ready to be effective teachers wherever they choose to pursue their careers.

Jann Joseph
Dean, College of Education