Quality of Wyoming Graduating Teachers Under Fire

The University of Wyoming (UW) has recently come under fire concerning the quality of its graduates from teacher training programs.

At a UW Trustees' meeting last week, education policy advisor Mary Kay Hill was reported as commenting that the most qualified K-12 teachers in Wyoming "are not coming from UW."

Hill cited a 2011 report shows that 70% of new hires in the state's school districts are coming from out of state. This number is up from 50% in 2000.

According to the College of Education's Associate Dean Leslie Rush, this change has more to do with the labor market, not the quality of graduates, as Wyoming offers a higher teacher salary than its neighboring states, writes Leah Todd for The Casper Star Tribune.

The average teacher salary in the state starts at $43,053 while nearby states start teachers around $30,000.

"I interpreted that report a little bit differently," says Rush. "As a result of the increased salaries in Wyoming and the cuts in salaries elsewhere, the students that graduate from the School of Education are seeing increased competition for teaching positions."

Although the school graduates about 200 new teachers each year, this does not fill the 600 empty teaching positions the state has, according to state data. Information revealed from a survey from UW's Survey and Analysis Center last year indicates about 79% of UW's graduating teachers were employed in the state.

Christiana Stoddard, author of the report and a Montana State University professor, has noted that the new hires in Wyoming are not coming from better schools, or are in any way more qualified, writes Aaron Schrank for Wyoming Public Media.

"They were coming from out of state, but not necessarily, kind of, top-notch institutions out of state," Stoddard says.

College of Education Dean Kay Persichitte was asked to step down last October by interim vice president for academic affairs Dick McGinity. McGinity is currently the President. The college is now headed by interim Dean Michael Day, a former college faculty member. The search for a permanent dean remains in the planning stages.

State lawmakers were also critical of the number of remedial classes being taken once students were admitted.

The UW College of Education has since increased acceptance requirements, as well as requiring a higher ACT score for entry to the system than the rest of the University does.

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