It is no big secret that Castleton State College is in the midst of an upward transformation. From the new state of the art fitness center and dormitories, to the vast improvement of many of the college’s athletic teams, Castleton is making great strides toward an incredibly bright future. As the school year winds down and the college begins to ready itself for the 2007-2008 academic year, there is one change on campus that is sure to be at the center of attention when school resumes in September.
After years of thought and consideration, Castleton has decided to completely restructure its teacher education program in order to meet the goals of the college while at the same time continue to meet state regulations.
This significant change began in the spring of 2006 when Castleton President Dave Wolk established the Task Force to Transform Teacher Education. This group, which includes individuals from the education department, the administration, as well as teachers from other departments throughout the college, developed a two-phase plan to reach their reformation objectives.
In the “early discovery phase,” as stated in the Teacher Education Program Design report, the task force evaluated the goals of the program and the requirements for teacher licensure in the state of Vermont. The group consulted with members of the college education department, state education officials, and surveyed recent graduates of the program — as well as area teachers — to formulate the best possible plan.
Next came the “later discovery phase,” which was also outlined in the Teacher Education Design report and simply continued the path of the first phase by consulting education leaders throughout the area to use their expertise to refine and revise the proposed program.
With “well over 100 hours of meetings this past spring and summer,” the Task Force to Transform Teacher Education was able to design the new program to solidify Castleton’s position as a leading producer of high quality teachers and educators.
When asked about the motives for and the goals of the transformation, Wolk was quick to respond.
“Castleton was originally a teacher training institution, so strengthening our programs for the modern era builds on an already respected program for many decades. We are committed to improving the quality of educators, both teachers and school leaders, in and out of Vermont, so it is important that we have the very best undergraduate and graduate programs for preparing prospective educators and educating those who are already working in our schools,” he said. “The Castleton Center for Schools already educates more practicing Vermont teachers than all the other colleges and universities combined.”
The new program, highlighted by new requirements and improved course offerings, is also adding the Center for Teacher Education. This “administrative unit,” according to the report, will work to “oversee the progress of Castleton education students throughout their undergraduate study and beyond.”
This structure will monitor student development with regards to state requirements, maintenance of profiles, and ultimately in the process of job placement.
While much of the transformation went smoothly for the task force, one major challenge was present throughout the whole process.
“Our single biggest challenge, I think, was to convince all of the interested parties that the Task Force report is the opening chapter in what will be an ongoing effort to continually improve teacher education here at Castleton State College,” said Honoree Fleming, Associate Academic Dean and Chair of the Task Force.
The group plans to use these current changes to move into the future, one that will continue to seek progression and improvement.
“We expect that our experiences with the new program, as it is phased in, will lead to additional ideas about how to improve the program,” she said.
When asked about student reaction to the changes, Fleming responded by citing a series of recent surveys sent out by the task force to recent education graduates.
“They were very satisfied with the education they received from Castleton and many of the ideas incorporated into the new program came from them (the graduates),” said Fleming. “Most of them believed that developing educators should spend more time in the field, a feature of the new program.”
Although drastic changes have been made to the education program, both the new and old programs will remain in use for the next three years with current students finishing up under the present standards while students entering Castleton in 2007 will enroll in the new program.
While much of the faculty and administration is confident and excited about the upcoming transformation, some students have felt otherwise. There is a sense of uncertainty around campus about the 2007-2008 school year and many students have made their views known. One of the main concerns is the loss of education department staff and how these changes will affect scheduling.
“It is really kind of scary. Out of the seven current education teachers, I think that only two are returning. I mean I am signing up for classes right now for next year and I have no idea who the teacher will be. They are all ‘to be announced,’ ” said Castleton junior Wendy O’Brien.
Another student, who asked to remain anonymous, took his concerns even further when asked about his thoughts on the changes and the loss of education department faculty.
“I have seriously considered transferring to another college because I am not sure if the school will be able to offer the classes I need for me to complete the requirements in a reasonable amount of time,” he said.