To the Editor:
The recent article on the University’s decision to suspend acceptances to the elementary education track of the Master of Arts in Teaching program for the 2018-19 academic year did not accurately capture the purpose of this action or the process that we followed.
As provost, one of my chief responsibilities is assessing and ensuring the academic strength and integrity of our educational programs. It was in this spirit — and as a follow-up to the report of the regularly scheduled academic review of our Department of Education — that in summer 2017, I appointed Karen Sibley, dean of the School for Professional Studies and vice president for strategic initiatives, to conduct a comprehensive review of the University’s MAT programs in elementary and secondary education.
After careful consideration of a number of factors, including the most effective and efficient use of resources to meet the needs of current students while conducting meaningful program review and redesign, the University decided to suspend acceptances of new applicants to the elementary education track for the current cycle. This pause will enable us to fully evaluate our current program based on evolving classroom and community needs and in light of expanding scholarly expertise in the newly refocused Annenberg Institute for School Reform. Ultimately, we want to ensure that we are preparing teachers with the knowledge and skills to understand social contexts and how they impact students, meet the needs of diverse learners and promote greater equity in our schools.
Once this decision was made, we communicated with current students, faculty, alums and community partners, emphasizing that we believe these immediate steps are necessary to ensure ongoing program strength and to position the University and its graduates to continue to make a difference in classrooms in our city, state and nation. We also communicated with the Rhode Island Department of Education, which is charged with program approval. In their response, the department commended our commitment to continuous improvement and to preparing candidates for current workforce needs.
We know, and research shows, that a good teacher can make all the difference in a student’s life. Institutions of higher education that take on the important responsibility of preparing the capable and innovative teachers we need in our classrooms today must ensure ongoing rigor and relevance. This is at the heart of our recent decision, and will guide our choices moving forward.
Richard M. Locke P’18