March 1, 2012

After Cuts to Cornell’s Department, Ithaca College Offers Masters in Teaching

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Despite a new agreement reached with Ithaca College that allows Cornell students to pursue I.C.’s Master of Arts in Teaching, some remained concerned about the future of education instruction at the University.

The agreement, effective as of Jan. 1, gives Cornell graduates automatic admission to I.C.’s M.A.T. program in adolescence education provided that, in addition to maintaining a 3.0 grade point average, they have completed a minor in education and a major in the area they wish to teach.

“We will waive our usual requirement for letters of recommendation,” as long as the candidate successfully completes the education minor, said Linda Hanrahan, chair of the Graduate Education Department at I.C. “Applicants from Cornell simply must complete the online application process for admission to a grad program at Ithaca College and arrange to have official transcripts sent to us.”

The 13-month M.A.T. program at I.C. gives aspiring teachers the skills to teach several subjects: English, French, German, Spanish, math, biology, chemistry, physics and social studies. Students who complete the program will receive a degree from I.C.

In 2010, administrators announced that budget cuts would force the University to phase out the  Department of Education over a two-year period. In July 2011, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences relocated five of the 10 education professors to other departments.

Despite the cuts, students can still pursue a minor in education and M.A.T. in the sciences at the University. Still, many students worried that the new program at Ithaca College would not be an adequate replacement for Cornell’s agricultural science major, which was phased out beginning in 2010.

Prof. John Sipple, developmental sociology, who taught in Cornell’s education department before it was eliminated in 2010, expressed concern that people would see this agreement as an “easy fix.”

“This decision clearly broadens the options for Cornell students to gain certification in multiple subject areas, but it does not signal a long-term commitment to the preparation of science teachers at Cornell University,” Sipple said, adding that the new program would not necessarily help prepare students who are aspiring science teachers.

Jessica Beidelman ’12, who is pursuing an education minor at Cornell, echoed Sipple’s concern for the University’s education program.

“I think it’s great that they’re moving forward in this positive direction to bring these classes to Cornell,” Beidelman said. “But at the same time, this shows a deficiency in Cornell’s own education program.”

Instead of replacing Cornell’s former agricultural science major, I.C.’s M.A.T. program will offer students training in the humanities and social studies, fields Cornell did not offer, even before the budget cuts.

“We’ve always certified teachers in science and agriculture and that hasn’t changed despite closures in the department,” Sipple said. “It’s just rounding out the Cornell offerings to allow Cornell students a chance to get students certified in a broader array of subject areas.”

Sipple urged the University not to lose sight of potential improvements, saying that the University needs to make a decision to ensure the future of its existing program.

“This agreement does not signal a long-term commitment to the preparation of science teachers at Cornell,” he said.

Travis Park, director of teacher education at Cornell, said that, as a world-class science and technology institution, Cornell should be among the best at preparing highly qualified science teachers.

“Cornell has some social obligation to prepare next-generation science teachers,” Park said.

Still, others said the new program would expand opportunities for students to pursue careers as teachers.

“It preserves opportunities that exist at Cornell and expands it to new areas, especially in the humanities, that I think students will find appealing,” said Max Pfeffer, senior associate dean of CALS.

So far this year, I.C. has received two applications from Cornell students for the M.A.T. program, both prior to the announcement of the Cornell-Ithaca College agreement, according to Hanrahan.

“We look forward to applications from Cornell seniors interested in staying here in Ithaca as they pursue a master’s degree and teaching certification,” she said.

Original Author: Elizabeth Kussman