Ensuring Teacher Quality in UNC’s DNA

Eugene Sheehan

Eugene Sheehan, Dean of UNC's College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, shares what it takes to prepare high-quality teachers and other school personnel, and how data collection informs the quality of the college's programs.

The preparation of high-quality teachers and other education personnel is in our DNA at the University of Northern Colorado. From our beginnings as the State Normal School in 1889, UNC has maintained a focus on educator quality.

Currently, UNC prepares the largest number of teachers across the widest array of areas (early childhood, elementary, 16 secondary areas, special education, art, music, and physical education) in Colorado. Programs are located in several cities across the state: Greeley, Denver, Loveland and Colorado Springs. All are designed to prepare educators through four-year programs and through shorter graduate programs available to individuals with an undergraduate degree.

UNC also prepares other school personnel, including principals, school psychologists, and school counselors. Enrollment in our preparation programs has been growing. Annually we recommend about 800 educators for licensure.

We devote much thought to measuring the quality of the educators we prepare. Our programs have been recognized by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education since 1954. The Colorado departments of Education and Higher Education also approve our programs. A few years ago our education programs earned the Christa McAuliffe Award for Excellence in Teacher Education from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. And we appreciate comments such as those published by media at the last UNC Teacher Employment Days from an Alaska director of Human Resources who said: "UNC has a great program here."

Additionally, we collect and use data to inform program quality. We have published information describing the data collection process and outcomes on a college website titled "University of Northern Colorado Teacher Quality" at http://www.unco.edu/cebs/unctq. Here you will find information about the data we collect on our teacher candidates and graduates.

Our education programs monitor student performance throughout the program of study. We survey our students after they graduate to determine their perceptions of program quality in light of their job experiences. As an example of the kind of data available on the site, teacher candidates who majored in biology, civics, earth science, ESL or geography had 100 percent job placement rates within 12-18 months after graduation.
Importantly, we follow up with those who work with and employ our students and graduates, including teachers, principals and human resource personnel, to gain impartial outside data about quality.

Also included on this website is information about faculty research and grant writing outcomes. In order to maintain and enhance program quality it is critical that faculty members remain current in their area of expertise. The outcomes of research on topics such as child development or reading, are incorporated into classroom instruction.

The purpose of this evidence collection is to document program and graduate quality and also to direct program improvement. Because of data collected we have evaluated and changed the content of coursework; added relevant courses and programs, such as a minor in Reading that focuses on literacy training for teachers; and required that all teacher candidates have significant practicum experience in diverse and high-needs schools. Improving our programs is an ongoing endeavor. We are in the process of recommending changes to our secondary and elementary programs that we believe will enhance student achievement.

The evidence we collect demonstrates our commitment to the preparation of top-quality educators. We welcome feedback. Please email me at eugene.sheehan@unco.edu if you would like to comment about our data or our programs.

- Eugene P. Sheehan, Dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences