English education grads earn high marks

Western Carolina University students get hands-on experience in the classroom.

WCU’s teacher education program feature classroom experience.

High school English students in North Carolina schools perform better when their classes are taught by graduates of Western Carolina University.

That is among the findings of a University of North Carolina system study presented recently to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee by researchers who conducted the study.

The Carolina Institute for Public Policy study examines data files from UNC institutions and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to determine the impact on student achievement of UNC system graduates who are teaching in the state’s schools. About one-third of the public teachers in North Carolina in 2007-08 were graduates of UNC institutions, the study says.

Examining student performance on end-of-grade tests, researchers found that high school students made higher gains from year to year on English tests when their teachers were prepared through WCU’s English education program. The study lists Western Carolina as a program that has “a significant positive impact” on the preparation of the state’s high school English teachers and the performance of their students.

Western Carolina’s English education program requires students to complete an internship in a school classroom prior to beginning the semester of required student teaching. Educators believe that additional training time in the classroom pays off when those student-teachers graduate and become teachers.

Catherine Carter

Catherine Carter

“We’re very pleased to hear this confirmation of what we already know, that our teacher education programs, with their rich early field experiences, strong content courses, cooperation between departments and yearlong internship option, are preparing teachers well to work with 21st-century learners,” said Catherine Carter, director of the English education program. “This isn’t the work of one program or one department; teacher education candidates in every area rely on collaboration between programs, departments and colleges.”

Brian Gastle, head of the English department at WCU, said that the study findings specifically indicate the strength of the collaboration between the College of Education and Allied Professions, where the teacher education program is housed, and the College of Arts and Sciences, where future teachers expand knowledge of their subject areas such as English.

“Our program is based upon the assumption that teacher preparation benefits from strong training in content areas, like literature and language study, exposure to proven education methodologies and experience in the classroom,” Gastle said. “But I believe our greatest asset is the support and attention our students receive from our dedicated faculty.”

Perry Schoon, dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions, said the study recognizes that WCU is advancing the field of teacher education by identifying promising practices for measuring the impact of programs on teacher candidate knowledge, particularly on student learning from pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

“The study also provides data that indicate our work is not done,” Schoon said. “We must continue to prepare and nurture high-quality teachers in all disciplines who will work in our schools, make a difference in student learning and play a role in shaping the young people who represent the future of our region, our state and our nation.

For more information about teacher education programs at Western Carolina University, visit the Web site http://teachereducation.wcu.edu or call (828) 227-7311.