In October 1998, Congress voiced its concern for the quality of teacher preparation by enacting Title II of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Title II includes new accountability measures in the form of new reporting requirements for institutions and states on teacher preparation and licensing. Section 207 of Title II requires the annual preparation and submission of three reports on teacher preparation and licensing: one from institutions to states, a second from states to the Secretary of Education, and a third for the Secretary to give Congress and the public. By law, these reports must be submitted annually. For the first reporting cycle, the Oklahoma Panhandle State University (OPSU) School of Education was required to submit our report to the State of Oklahoma no later than April 7, 2001.
The report consisted of the passing and failure rates of students who have completed their teacher preparation program at OPSU and have taken the Oklahoma Teacher Certification Examinations. The Oklahoma law requires that teacher candidates entering the teaching profession receive an initial license only after passing the OGET-Oklahoma General Education Test, the OSAT-Oklahoma Subject Area Test, and the OPTE-Oklahoma Professional Teaching Examination.
Oklahoma Panhandle State University serves in a unique position of having a service area that includes a five state area. We have students from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, New Mexico, and Colorado on a regular basis. Many of these students go through the OPSU Teacher Education Program with the intent of returning to their home state for teacher certification. A large number of these out-of-state students take the majority of their general education courses, and many of their “major” courses at their local community colleges or junior colleges before transferring to OPSU. They then take the OGET and sometimes the OSAT and have their scores charged to OPSU, but do not receive their training for these exams at OPSU. It becomes evident that the general education courses in other states do not have the same course competencies as those in the state of Oklahoma have. The same is true with secondary teaching areas. A student may transfer to OPSU having already taken a large portion of the course requirements in math, business, science, etc. and when they take the OSAT, again, their scores are charged to OPSU without the preparation for the exams coming from OPSU.
OPSU also has what could be considered an “open” enrollment. We accept all students into our university and provide almost 35% of our students with remedial classes. The uniqueness of open enrollment, while providing many students an opportunity to attend college, also presents a challenge to the passing of certification exams. We have students taking certification exams that could not even be admitted to many of the state universities, much less the private ones.
Another uniqueness of OPSU is the small number of students who take any given certification exam. When we have only one student take a certification exam during the year (two times failing it, and the final time passing it), but it shows up as three exams with a 33% pass rate, it becomes frustrating. We can have one student of 15 fail an exam and receive a 93% pass rate, but another university with more students may have one student of 30 fail the same exam and have a pass rate of 97%. Does this make us a poorer school than them? We think not and challenge the method of comparing programs.
We believe that we have an excellent teacher education program at OPSU; one that produces quality teachers—especially if we have them for the total program.