There are more than a thousand colleges and universities that train teachers. In most institutions, those preparing for teaching careers make up a small percentage of the student body, but this fraction of the academic community is getting more than its share of national publicity.
Two charges ring out.
1. That the college professors are too far removed from K-12 classrooms and hence do not provide either proper role models or suitably practical methods of classroom management and instruction.
2. That the students who major in education are the academically weakest on campus -- this charge is apparently now documented to some extent by findings that the average national examination score for those preparing to teach is lower than the average score for students pursuing other majors in random samples taken nationwide.
Various colleges have struggled with these two charges -- as well as with course content, internships, and even length of study time.
One small church-related (Presbyterian) liberal arts college -- Austin -- in Sherman, Texas (about 60 miles north of Dallas), has just completed a decade of dramatic change in the way students, in their teacher education department, earn their degrees and teaching certificates.
Austin, for example, has several ways of determining that only those of the highest academic quality enter the teaching profession from its program.
It has devised complex ways for students to become involved early in their college experience with public school children.
Public school teachers and administrators -- who want the products from Austin -- are given many opportunities for involvement with the professorial staff.
Students spend five -- instead of four -- years in preparation, including full-time supervision of a classroom (or secondary school set of courses) for at least one full semester.
What Austin did, how it did it, what it thinks of what it did, and hints of what it plans to do next are all laid out by Bill Freeman, a professor of education there, who was granted a sabbatical to compile the essential data into a readable report.
Interested? Write Bill Freeman, Austin College, Sherman, Texas 75090, and ask for ''The Decade: A review of the Austin Teacher Program 1972-1982.''