Every metropolitan area has a basic and continuing concern with professional education and how it is provided. Southwest Missouri State University asserts that teaching, including the preparation of professional educators, is society's most essential profession. It is the university's heritage and a key element of the university's future. The university's goal is to ensure that students graduating from SMSU continue to be among the best prepared educators in the United States.
Professional education includes educators in the fields of early childhood, elementary, middle school, secondary, reading, special education, and educational technology, as well as in administration, counseling, library media, and other education-related disciplines. Professional education also includes any organized body of knowledge combined with extensive applied experience that prepares students for careers in teaching in a given field. And professional education includes the lifelong continuous learning for professionals in many fields - specific courses and programs to gain and maintain professional accreditations, upgrade specific career skills, and the CEUs (Continuing Education Units) required by many professions.
SMSU views the preparation of teachers as a seamless process extending from early childhood education through the doctorate and including faculty members in all colleges and departments on campus. The program emphases within traditional university professional education disciplines are supported by content area specialists in all departments across the campus. Solid partnerships with area school districts, public agencies, and other interested professional education organizations contribute to the preparation of teachers. These professional educators also will be competent in the use of expanding instructional technologies and their associated new teaching methodologies. And the strong focus on literacy helps teachers to become and to prepare lifelong learners, reflective decision-makers, and contributing citizens.
Southwest Missouri State University has developed a unique campus collaborative model for teacher and educator preparation that spans six colleges and 27 departments. This collaborative model of educational stakeholders is represented by the Professional Education Unit (PEU), a group comprised of members of the College of Education, as well as all faculty members and other professionals across the university responsible for preparing educators. The diversity of this 200-plus member unit enables the university to prepare professional educators capable of both designing and ensuring effective learning programs for diverse students in rural, suburban, and urban school districts across our state and the nation. The Professional Education Unit has regulating responsibilities in monitoring university education programs and certifications.
The university, the PEU, and the College of Education, working in partnership with school districts, the interested public, and other agencies, such as the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, will continue to produce educators capable of meeting the growing and increasingly complex challenges of the teaching and learning environments in which they will work.
The university will continue to serve as a site for experimental and innovative programs and as a clearinghouse for research findings and best practices to enhance continuing education and advanced program experiences. One such site is Greenwood Laboratory School, located on campus, which will continue to play a role in the preparation of professional educators by providing quality K-12 educational experiences. Building on the foundation of the laboratory school, Greenwood will be increasingly integrated into the university. Another example is the innovative site-based program in elementary education, where partner public schools serve as the primary learning environment for its students, extending beyond the campus classroom. Finally, SMSU's virtual high school increasingly will respond to area needs for quality education in science, mathematics, and foreign languages.
The Cooperative Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, offered through the University of Missouri-Columbia, was the first doctoral program hosted by SMSU. It is the goal of SMSU to engage in additional cooperative doctoral programs that will meet the needs of SMSU students.
At Southwest Missouri State University, teaching will remain the essential profession. The university enters the 21st Century as a recognized leader in the preparation of highly qualified teachers and education professionals. Adhering to the highest standards possible, SMSU excels in preservice preparation, continuing professional development, advanced programs, and as a university emphasizing scholarly and applied educational research.
As the preparation of teachers is undergoing scrutiny at local, state, and national levels, the Professional Education Unit also will be expected to evolve in response to needed changes in the profession. The Knight Higher Education Collaborative has mandated that various constituencies collaborate to improve teacher education. This collaboration must include faculty in the College of Education, as well as faculty in the academic departments who contribute to the preparation of teachers; teachers and administrators in K-12 schools; and accrediting agencies such as the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
In order to foster this collaboration, and to enhance the recruitment, preparation, and ongoing support of teachers, SMSU will implement structural changes and improvements, not only in the College of Education, but in the entire Professional Education Unit. The ultimate goal is for every faculty member to be actively engaged in the preparation and ongoing support of teachers.
Selected University assets to support the professional education theme
- SMSU's system-wide commitment to professional education is demonstrated through its nationally recognized Professional Education Unit (PEU) organizational structure. The PEU includes some 200 faculty, staff, and administrators from 27 departments representing all six academic colleges.
- Historically, SMSU is Missouri's largest provider of professional education graduates who have earned state certification.
- Professional education candidates must meet the SMSU-Springfield admissions requirements and have scores of 265 on all sections of the state required C-Base Test. SMSU maintains the highest C-Base Test requirement in Missouri.
- SMSU's continuing commitment to strengthen professional education is evident in a broad array of special programs and activities, including the Institute for School Improvement and the Southwest Regional Professional Development Center.
- Support for professional education will continue into the future as a result of the following five externally funded grants totaling $5,558,000: Ozarks Partnership Teacher Enhancement Initiatives; Show-Me Tomorrow's Teachers Using Technology; Standards-Based Training and Retention of Rural Special Educators; Goals 2000 Preparing Teachers to Teach Science; and Goals 2000 Teacher Preservice and Professional Development in Health Education.