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Keeping UNI on top while examining fate of MPLS

May 12, 2010
Thomas J. Switzer
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
March 10, 2002

Thomas J. Switzer

As dean of the UNI College of Education at UNI, it is my responsibility and obligation to see that UNI remains one of the premier institutions in the country for the preparation of teachers and school administrators.

I assess the needs of the College of Education and the university-wide teacher education programs, then make recommendations to the university president and provost on necessary directions we should follow to ensure that prominence. In the best of times and in the worst of times, we need to be sure that the human and financial resources available to the university are put to the best use.

Decisions regarding the future directions of Malcolm Price Laboratory School (MPLS) must be sensitive to the needs of students while responsive to the needs of the UNI teacher education program. Our goal has always been to achieve these two ends.

From the outset, the intention has been to engage appropriate parties in conversations that will likely lead to the creation of professional development schools with Cedar Falls, Waterloo and potentially other school districts. I want to emphasize that the announcement I made was intended to begin those conversations. This announcement was made just hours after UNI President Robert Koob relayed the same message as a point of information to the Board of Regents.

The university requires that any plan emerging from these conversations continues the kinds of functions the lab school has traditionally pursued.

According to the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, "professional development schools are innovative institutions formed through partnerships between professional education programs and P-12 schools. Their mission is professional preparation of candidates, faculty development, inquiry directed at the improvement of practice, and enhanced student learning."

We are excited to examine new possibilities, such as expanding the venue for our lab school's 10th- through 12th-grade component into the local communities, just as we did with preschool through the establishment of the Freeburg Early Childhood Program in Waterloo. We also are excited about the university's commitment to seek funding from the state to renovate MPLS.

I want to assure everyone that any changes would continue and enrich the experiences for our teacher education students, and offer new venues for curriculum development and outreach.

I regret the impression was given that decisions have been made. Although we are confident in our ability to create a professional development school model with Cedar Falls, Waterloo and other school districts, the conversations are just beginning. The intention is to involve all appropriate parties in these discussions, and that all required processes and procedures will be followed.

As dean of the College of Education, I am a strong supporter of MPLS. I also must ensure that UNI continue its tradition as one of the best teacher preparation programs in the country. I am confident that the process we are implementing now will lead us toward a strong and sustainable laboratory school with both campus-based and community-based components in support of our teacher education programs.