AUSTIN, Texas—Dr. Manuel J. Justiz, dean of The University of Texas at Austin College of Education, today (March 5) called for the nation’s top 200 major teacher education institutions to prepare as many as 200,000 new professional educators — called “Lead Teachers”— over the next two decades in elementary education. These educational professionals would not have regular classroom assignments.
The initiative would affect more than 29 million children in the nation’s 50,000 elementary schools.
“I selected the elementary schools for two reasons,” said Justiz, whose comments were made at a special White House Conference on Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers. “First, that is where the strong academic foundation must be constructed for all subsequent education.
“Second, when students enter middle school, they begin to receive much of their instruction from subject specialists under the guidance of department chairs.”
Justiz, who holds both the A.M. Aikin Regents Chair in Education Leadership and the Lee Hage Jamail Regents Chair in Education, was one of the keynote speakers specially invited by First Lady Laura Bush, who hosted the event.
The 12-year veteran dean said Lead Teachers are a “first step toward new thinking about what constitutes an elementary (school) staff and how people get trained in education.”
Justiz also said several full-time Lead Teachers could be placed in every U.S. elementary school, making them available “to work with the ‘quality teachers in every classroom’” feature recently advocated in President Bush’s State of the Union address.
“These new educational professionals will have had a solid undergraduate education, possess high intelligence, exceptional teaching ability, qualities of leadership and the powerful desire to grow professionally as Lead Teachers and not administrators,” Justiz said.
After success at the baccalaureate level and careful selection, he explained that Lead Teacher candidates would complete a professional program, perhaps the equivalent of a law school education.
“The new program will prepare them to look carefully at research, to select educational materials, to work closely with teachers and others who perform instruction, to study and to make judgments about educational methods, to evaluate curriculum, to understand the latest technologies and how they relate to education, and to conduct an assessment and diagnosis of individual and classroom problems,” Justiz added.
Justiz recognized three widely acclaimed programs at The University of Texas at Austin in his speech — the statewide accomplishments of the Texas Center for Reading and Language Arts; the Higher Education Collaborative (HEC), which exposes faculty to the latest research-based reading instruction practices at 32 Texas colleges; and the joint UTeach program with the College of Natural Sciences to produce future secondary math and science teachers
Justiz explained, however, that these programs are not enough to meet current teacher demand.
“We must now confront the most fundamental issues of teacher replacement and teacher preparation reform that will shape the future of K-12 education for the next 20 to 30 years,” Justiz said.