Emporia State University's teacher-education program is simultaneously
one of the oldest and one of the most modern
in the country.
Founded in 1863 as the Kansas State Normal School, Emporia was, more
than a century later in 1990, among the first universities to join forces
with local schools to create professional-development programs.
Emporia's Teachers College has also pioneered the use of a universal
student-assessment system to replace the myriad standards and grading
schemes of various professors typically used to measure student success.
Faculty use the results to pinpoint the program's strengths and weaknesses
and ensure each graduate has the skill set required of teaching.
The college works with dozens of partner school districts, ensuring that
candidates get their first taste of a real classroom in their sophomore year.
Elementary school educators-to-be begin with observations, then work up
to teaching individual and small-group lessons, and finally spend their full
senior year as interns in two local schools. (Secondary school candidates do
the same, but students teach only for the spring semester.)
All the while, professors observe them in the field and provide feedback.
Class discussions and readings revolve around candidates' experiences
in the schools. Seniors receive weekly evaluations from their
mentor teachers (who in turn receive training and support from Emporia).
Tamara Cassidy, a 2006 graduate, recalls that when she started work,
"it felt like I'd already taught for a year. I felt prepared for a lot of the
basics, so I was able to focus on more nitty-gritty things, like how to
adapt my lessons to meet the needs of all my students."
Assessments at Emporia emphasize skills that reflect
the college's essential concept of a teacher: critical thinker,
creative planner, and effective practitioner. Candidates must
pass muster at multiple checkpoints, starting with entry into
the teaching program as sophomores (11 percent are rejected
there); grades, test scores, faculty recommendations, mentor
teachers' evaluations, and demonstrations of technological competence
all factor in. A capstone is the Teacher Work Sample, a series
of assessments illustrating how well a student teacher delivers an entire
unit of instruction.
Disposition matters, too; any faculty member from the Teachers
College, the university at large, or K-12 partner schools may raise concerns
about a candidate's personal traits, leading to counseling or even
expulsion from the program. All told, about 5 percent of students per
semester fail to meet the benchmarks.
"Not everybody gets to be a teacher here who wants to be," says
Teachers College dean Tes Mehring.
The rigor appears to have a payoff. Emporia surveys show that principals
consider them well prepared on a range of knowledge and skills.
More than 90 percent of graduates are still teaching after three years;
one in six Kansas teachers is an alum.
And that's how Emporia wants it. Beyond the Teachers College, the
whole university makes teacher preparation an avowed priority, and it's
no coincidence the campus is home to the National Teachers Hall of
Location: Emporia, Kansas
Degrees conferred: Bachelor's or postbaccalaureate licensure
Annual graduating class: 275-320
Time in the field: 1 semester (secondary school) or 2 semesters (elementary school), plus multiple shorter visits
Full year in professional-development schools (elementary school only)
Uniform assessment system
Teacher Work Samples
Grace Rubenstein is a senior producer at Edutopia.