Monday, December 18, 2000

UC partner in new minority effort


It teams up with Wilberforce U. to train teachers

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Two area universities will collaborate in a new national search for well-prepared black high school seniors interested in returning to the inner city to teach math and science.

        The students will become the inaugural class in the University of Cincinnati/Wilberforce University Joint Math/Science Degree Teacher Preparatory Program.

        They'll start next fall at Wilberforce, a historically black school near Xenia, Ohio, founded in 1856 and affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

        After three years there majoring in math or science, students will transfer to UC's College of Education for two years of teacher training and certification.

        Then they'll face a market where math and science teachers are in demand and blacks with those skills are in even greater demand.

        Despite potential offers from well-heeled suburban schools, Wilberforce and UC educators expect these beginners to follow generations of black teachers who returned as mentors to communities they grew up in.

        Wilberforce long has recruited nationally and the math/science project will become part of that effort next year.

        “We are obviously looking for the best and brightest,” said Dr. Emeka Morah, a Wilberforce vice president.

        That prospect had a lot to do with UC's eagerness to collaborate, UC President Joseph Steger said, and he and Wilberforce President John Henderson already are making the rounds together raising funds.

        Dr. Linda J.C. Taylor, who directs UC teacher education, said the collaboration may increase the number of talented math and science students who become teachers.

        Wilberforce students will create greater racial diversity in her program.
       

Fewer minority teachers

               At both schools, market-savvy students began switching from teaching to other majors in the late 1970s as more opportunities opened for blacks.

        UC's student teacher corps became increasingly white. Wilberforce, which has 850 undergrads, abandoned teacher training.

        Dr. Morah said students and parents asked Wilberforce to reinstate it “but for lack of resources, we just haven't done it.”

        Then UC professor Dr. Calvert H. Smith proposed a collaboration drawing on both universities' strengths.

        “We jumped at it because it appeared to be win-win,” Wilberforce's Dr. Henderson said.

        Dr. Smith said historically black private colleges have no trouble attracting top students, but too few youngsters have taken demanding math and science courses in grades 7-12 because low expectations often deter them.

        Wilberforce recruiters not only plan to cull the best talent for the math/science program, but they'll urge preparation from the early grades.

        The program expects to start with 20 students and add 20 each fall for at least two more years.

       

Not first collaboration

               It's unclear whether financial aid will be tied to teaching a certain number of years in urban schools, Dr. Smith added. That remains under discussion.

        The program isn't UC's first minority collaboration.

        Two local programs — Minorities in Mathematics, Science and Engineering and Emerging Ethnic Engineers — reach down as far as fourth grade with a Family Science Academy.

        The College of Engineering nurtures youngsters through teen summer institutes and after-school programs into a six-week freshman summer residential “bridge” program to ease the transition to UC.

        Kenneth Simonson, director of the Emerging Ethnic Engineers program, said that nurturing pays:

        • African-Americans in engineering and math graduate at twice the rate of all black undergraduates at UC.

        But a 10-year-old dual-degree program involving Wilberforce and UC's College of Engineering has not lived up to expectations.

        It continues with three or four students preparing to transfer and Wilberforce's Dr. Henderson attributed the low numbers largely to competition from the University of Dayton; it's closer, and their engineering collaboration was established before UC became involved in 1990.

        Still, Dr. Morah predicted that a similar fate will not befall the math/science program. UD and Wright State are closer and offer teacher training but Wilberforce has sought no collaboration with them:

        “Our interest is special with the University of Cincinnati.”

       



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