October 18, 2012

Cornell Will Not Renew Masters Program in Teaching

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After being decimated by University budget cuts, Cornell’s teacher education program will no longer pursue re-accreditation — a move that will end its Masters of Art in Teaching program, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences announced Thursday.

Once the accreditation for the education program expires, aspiring teachers will no longer be able to pursue an M.A.T. through Cornell, according to a letter Dean Kathryn Boor ’80 and Prof. Travis Park, horticulture, director of Cornell Teacher Education, sent to education students. The University’s M.A.T. program — which prepares aspiring teachers to become certified to teach K-12 grade science — is “one of the few in the nation that focuses solely upon the preparation of science teachers,” according to the letter.

Boor and Park said the decision to not pursue re-accreditation was, in large part, predated by budget cuts, which forced CALS to close the Department of Education in 2012. Although the University continued to offer its M.A.T. through CALS after the department was shut down, most of the extinct department’s professors have since either relocated to other departments or left Cornell altogether, according to the letter.

“Given the departure of core teacher education professors, and the intention of no replacement hires, re-accreditation will not be pursued,” the letter said.

Emphasizing their pride in Cornell’s teacher education program, Boor and Park said that the college will continue striving to provide “excellent learning and encouragement for Cornell students who wish to find challenging and rewarding careers in all fields of education.”

While aspiring teachers will not be able to pursue an M.A.T. at Cornell once the program’s accreditation expires, students interested in teacher education will still be able to take “challenging and relevant courses” across many fields of study, they said.

For instance, Park said in an interview Thursday, CALS will continue to offer a University-wide undergraduate education minor taught by professors in different colleges to students interested in the subject.

Additionally, students who are currently enrolled in the M.A.T. program or are planning to apply to it soon will be able to become certified as teachers in New York State if they graduate by December 2013, according to the letter. Cornell has also requested that its current accreditation for the program be extended to July 31, 2014, to allow elligible students to also receive certification in teaching.

“We are committed to ensuring that our current students have every opportunity to certify as teachers,” the letter said.

In light of the cuts, CALS will also use a $300,000 grant it received from the National Science Foundation to further develop the education minor, recruit science teachers and form partnerships with other education programs, according to the letter.

As the expiration of the education program’s accreditation looms, Boor and Park also pledged to support students and maintain the program’s record of finding jobs for nearly 100 percent of M.A.T. graduates.

“We recognize that our faculty have a strong commitment to consistently and successfully serving our students,” they added.

Once the program’s accreditation expires, students may turn to Ithaca College to advance their education in teaching.

Under an agreement sealed with the college in January, all Cornell students graduating with at least a 3.0 grade point average, an education minor and a major in the field in which they want to teach will receive automatic admission to I.C.’s M.A.T. program in adolescence education.

In the years since the University announced it would close the Department of Education, students and professors have reiterated one concern: that the University’s education program, like the department it was formerly housed in, would disappear. With Thursday’s announcement, John Armstrong grad, a student in the education program, said that fear came to fruition.

“It doesn’t surprise me whatsoever,” said John Armstrong grad, a student in the education program. “They’ve been slowly taking the education program away — they took away the undergraduate major, and now you don’t have University’s support of courses. I might be one of the very last people to get a Ph.D. in education from Cornell.”

The University’s decision not to pursue re-accreditation seems to spell out a disheartening end to what was once a thriving education program, Armstrong said.

“The founding mission of this University is ‘any person … any study’ … but it seems like ‘any person, any study — as long as it pays the bill,’” Armstrong said. “There are some really important things out there that the University should [support] that don’t make bucketloads of money.”

Tom Archibald grad, another student in the education program, echoed Armstrong’s disappointment, pointing to the pressing demand for science and math teachers in the U.S.

“I think it’s a shame,” Archibald said. “If you listen to what President Obama says about the future needs of this country, he often cites the need for high quality science and math teachers, so I find it, at the very least a paradox — if not upsetting — that Cornell is retreating from the President’s call.”

Original Author: Akane Otani