Making the grade

UChicago Careers in Education Professions should integrate successful elements of current programs.

By Maroon Editorial Board

Yesterday the University, in conjunction with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, announced UChicago Promise, an umbrella program that will serve to make the U of C more financially and academically accessible to local schools. This comes a few weeks after Career Advancement announced the creation of a new program that will aid students interested in pursuing careers in education. The program, dubbed UChicago Careers in Education Professions (UCIEP), is the eighth addition to the UChicago Careers In (UCI) initiative, and one that will undoubtedly come as welcome news to the large portion of the student body that expresses interest in such jobs. Though the creation of the program warrants kudos in and of itself, UCIEP seems to have a few structural kinks, and there are a few extant resources it should capitalize on to ensure its utility to undergraduates.

Much of UChicago Promise consists of offering financial grants and other monetary aid, but a more relevant facet will provide a set of Metcalf internships for those who want to work with Chicago schools. This aspect of the program could be integrated with UCIEP to ensure that students truly interested in K–12 instruction and research can have pre-allocated summer Metcalf opportunities to supplement their school year opportunities.

UCIEP has also acknowledged that they will use the myriad resources of the Urban Education Institute (UEI) in helping students. This is a commendable idea, and specific attention should be paid to the Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP), a two-year graduate program under UEI that has introduced a new, wildly successful model to educating and preparing students for urban environments and teaching. Ninety-six percent of UTEP grads are still teaching in Chicago schools or other urban districts after five years; this is in comparison to a 50 percent national average retention rate for urban public school teachers. Borrowing from this model, which discusses teaching at the most theoretical levels—including a “soul strand” that uses media like memoir and film to cultivate teacher identity and inform students of educational equity and class culture—could help compel even more students to the program and inspire those already in it to innovate both in the classroom and in education research.

Attracting these additional students, however, is only worthwhile if the program admits them. The UCIEP program is currently capped at about 70 students who have to apply and be accepted. It seems premature to institute an application system for such a new program, especially since the majority of UCI programs are open to all, as long as members attend a certain number of events, sessions, or career adviser meetings through the year. It would be wise to open UCIEP to the entire student body, and, if demand ends up overwhelming resources, then implementing a cap and application process.

Though applications help guarantee the sincerity and purpose of those in the program, UCIEP’s purpose should not only be to cultivate the ideas and energy of those already committed to education professions, but also to inform students of the rewards such careers offer. Given the current public discourse lamenting the future of education in America, UCIEP and UChicago Promise together have the potential to help change the landscape of education in Chicago, at the very least. UCIEP’s current model, capped at 70 students, can’t possibly provide for increasing student demand, and it could be working to discourage students whose career plans are currently less oriented toward the classroom.

The Editorial Board consists of the Editors-in-Chief and the Viewpoints Editors.