SRU’s COE utilizes rigorous candidate screening

teacher in classroom

Feb. 26, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Although Pennsylvania was recently awarded an above-average grade from the USA Today Network in regard to how it performs background checks and shares information about disciplinary actions against teachers, Slippery Rock University's College of Education is doing everything it can to raise the bar.

Keith Dils

   DILS

According to Keith Dils, Slippery Rock University dean of the College of Education, Pennsylvania, like all states, is faced with a challenging job in the face of making data available to all.

"When you consider the amount of information filtering in from all the various districts throughout the state and beyond, and the number of teachers they are accounting for, I'm not surprised by the grade," said Dils. "I believe they are doing a solid job."

For its part, SRU's College of Education is trying to lighten the state's load by producing teachers that wouldn't have "red flags" appear on their record as the result of a background check or conduct report.

"We do our best to make everyone's job easier by attracting strong students who will make great teachers with no prohibitive offenses," said Dils.

"From the very beginning of the process we ask ourselves 'Does this candidate have the proper disposition to teach? Do they have the patience, the moral fiber, the ethical decision-making skills, and the ability to lead? Do they elicit respect and are they selfless?'

"It's our job to admit the right people and educate and cultivate them before putting them forward into the system," Dils continued. "Part of what we do is screening out the folks that aren't up for the job or aren't the right fit before they find themselves in a spot where they would receive negative marks.

"If teaching isn't for them, or what they thought it would be, we'll help them find a better fit for them."

Students find out what's expected of them - and should be able to gauge if teaching is indeed the right fit for them - courtesy of the 39-page "Teacher Education Policy" manual produced by the COE.

The document outlines a variety of subjects for students including: student responsibilities, COE conceptual framework, certification programs, admission to teaching candidacy, teacher education curriculum, field experiences, exams, retention in the program and Pennsylvania teacher certification.

In addition, prior to a student teacher candidate's participation in any classroom teaching, internship, clinical or field experience, they must submit to the following:

• State Police Criminal History Record

• Department of Public Welfare Child Abuse Report

• Federal Criminal History Record Information

• Arrest/Conviction Report and Certification

Because individuals may have had background checks in the past, the state may require that all three background checks be retaken when one is due for renewal. If a background check reveals any convictions at any time that are prohibited by the Child Protective Services law, those persons will not be cleared.

However, as with anything, unblemished past performance is not always an indicator of future success.

"I wish there was a failsafe approach to predict what could happen down the road, but there isn't," said Dils. "That's why our faculty work as hard as they do to make sure we're doing all we can to shape and mold the most skillful and knowledgeable teachers of tomorrow with the highest of standards."

In addition to the aforementioned clearances, students who apply for teacher candidacy must also demonstrate competency in basic skills, including:

• Qualifying SAT Scores prior to college matriculation;

• Qualifying ACT Scores prior to college matriculation;

• Pass all three modules of Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment exam;

• Pass all three modules of ETS CORE Assessment;

• Must complete department Teacher Candidacy Application;

           ◊  Health and Physical Education

           ◊  Music Education

           ◊  Early Childhood Education

           ◊  SEFE Undergraduate Program

• Negative TB screening; and produce;

• Evidence of Act 126 training.

Once in a classroom, student teachers not only work under the guidance of the regularly assigned teacher, but also are observed no fewer than six times by COE faculty for evaluation.

"In a general sense, I guess you could say we act as a pre-screener for the state," said Dils. "We're constantly working with the schools and our students to shape them, improve their skills and sharpen their knowledge in order to produce great teachers who are ready for today's challenges.

"We have a very hands-on approach with our students and want to make sure they are on the right track through guidance and discovery.

"Learning is a zigzag. We're shaping minds that don't yet have the experience they'll need for the classroom. It's our job to help them straighten that line out and make sure they know the rights from the wrongs in order to make decisions that are in the best interests of themselves and their future students."

MEDIA CONTACT: Robb King | 724.738.2199 | robert.king@sru.edu