UMKC Education Program to Focus on Urban Ed

Mara Rose Williams, Kansas City Star, May 22, 2008

This fall, the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s School of Education will become a school of urban education, university officials said Wednesday.

The school will train teachers specifically to work in urban schools, with a newly developed curriculum. The goal is to attract a more diverse group of students who will grow into teachers prepared to prosper in urban schools.

Students will not have the option of student-teaching in suburban schools. Instead, they will be limited to opportunities in nine urban districts: Kansas City, Kansas City, Kan., Turner, Grandview, Hickman Mills, Center, Raytown, Independence and North Kansas City.

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Shifting all the course work toward urban education is a giant leap that sprang out of what professors learned from working with students enrolled in the institute, said Linda Edwards, dean of the School of Education.

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About three years ago, UMKC Chancellor Guy Bailey announced that he wanted the campus to become “an urban-serving” institution. Edwards said that announcement factored into the decision to focus on urban education.

The School of Education has about 300 undergraduates each year. In 2007, about 50 percent of those who were student-teaching taught in suburban schools. This year, 100 percent of the student teachers were in urban schools.

Students still will be exposed to suburban education, Edwards said. During the two years they are in the school, they will spend time observing suburban and perhaps even rural classrooms.

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The new curriculum will include more classes in cultural diversity and learning how to use students’ culture and background to connect them with learning, Waddell said.

She said all School of Education students will “take course work that involves them being immersed in the urban school district and the urban community and learning how resource-rich the urban community is.”

Until now, Waddell said, UMKC students, like students from education schools at most universities across the country, have been “trained to work in schools with a middle-class white culture.”

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Experts in urban education, including Howard, say a main cause of poor school performance is the inability of schools to adequately staff classrooms with qualified teachers. High teacher turnover makes it hard to keep high-quality teachers in urban schools.

Howard said many schools of education across the country are adopting some focus on urban education, but only a small number, “less than 10,” have geared their curriculum to urban education the way UMKC is doing.

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