By Justin Much
Given Western Oregon University’s recent rapid growth, broadening scope of programs and addition of new ones such as nursing, the school’s original mission — education — sometimes seems overshadowed.
WOU was recently named the 2010 recipient of the Christa McAuliffe Award for Excellence in Teacher Education by the AASCU. The association said the award “honors innovative teacher education programs that can document the success of their graduates in improving P-12 pupil learning outcomes.”
The first teacher in space, McAuliffe died in the 1986 Challenger disaster. Established in 1987, her namesake award has been given to one, two or three schools each year since. WOU is the only recipient this year, according to AASCU Manager of Public Relations Jennifer Herrera.
The association also revised criteria for the 2010 award.
“In this age of accountability, teacher preparation programs must be able to document their effectiveness in preparing teachers who can produce learning gains in their students,” the AASCU website noted. “The Christa McAuliffe Award will recognize programs that not only exemplify superior learning outcomes but also programs that provide models for other AASCU member institutions seeking to improve their programs.”
WOU’s heritage is deeply rooted in educating educators. And while the school’s curricula expand, the education base remains a mainstay.
“This recognition strengthens our desire to continue refining our programs and services to better support teachers who can help students succeed,” said Hilda Rosselli, WOU’s Dean of the College of Education.
WOU created the “Teacher Work Sample” years ago, a performance assessment used to document candidates’ ability to assess, plan and instruct in a standards-based educational system and improve student learning. The school’s latest teacher education innovation is the “Learning Gains Aggregator,” which is geared to enrich the Teacher Work Sample by documenting and aggregating student learning while allowing institutions to study the effectiveness of various approaches to teacher education.
“This year, Western Oregon University has provided a model for measuring the impact of teacher preparation on P-12 student learning,” said Jolanda M. Westerhof, AASCU’s director of teacher education. “We think this new instrument will help other teacher educators as they reshape their professional preparation programs to meet the needs of 21st century students.”
“We commend their leadership, faculty, and their students for striving always for the highest quality and innovation in their teacher education programs,” Oregon University System Chancellor George Pernsteiner said.
-Over the past 56 years, WOU’s teacher preparation programs have maintained national accreditation through the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. From 1999 to 2009, more than 3,000 WOU graduates were hired as educators in Oregon among 168 school districts.
In 2005, the College of Education was one of 30 institutions selected to be part of the Carnegie Corporation’s Teachers for a New Era Learning Network around best practices in teacher education. Also, WOU’s undergraduate program was one of only 10 to receive national recognition through the National Council on Teacher Quality’s report on teacher preparation programs that prepare elementary school teachers to teach math.
-WOU’s Teaching Research Institute is celebrating its 50-year anniversary by hosting an open house, 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, on the first floor of Todd Hall.
The open house will include refreshments and historical displays that chronicle the origins and development of the TRI as well as the Child Development Center. For information, call (503) 838-8871.