Editor's Note: This article was updated to correct factual errors.
University of Richmond students will be able to major in elementary education starting the fall of 2020 as part of a three-year pilot program.
Although an education minor already exists, professor of elementary education Patricia Stohr-Hunt said discussions about adding the major had been going on since fall 2018.
The major curriculum does not differ much from the current minor curriculum, Stohr-Hunt said.
“It’s just that as a minor the students were already doing close to nine units, without student teaching, so the major really just gives them credit for a major and includes the student teaching piece,” she said.
For some students who decided to minor in education before the major was available, the change allows them to go into their desired careers immediately after graduation, rather than continuing their studies through a master's program.
“I like it because this way I'm coming away with licensure," sophomore Ashley Meyer said. "So when I graduate, I can immediately become a teacher after applying for licensure because at graduation I'll have met all of the Virginia standards of education."
Along with the nine education classes required for the major, students will have to take two classes in each of the following subjects: English, mathematics, and laboratory sciences in two separate disciplines. Students will also have to take three history and social sciences classes.
These class requirements can be fulfilled through general education classes or AP, IB and CLEP exams. A first-year seminar class would also count toward one of the two English classes, said Allison Brenning, director of special education and elementary instruction.
The major curriculum also includes a student teaching requirement, Stohr-Hunt and Brenning said.
“It's really nice that not only are [students] getting the content that they were getting before but now they're getting some actual teaching experience in the course as well,” Brenning said.
Although the curriculum for the major and the minor are very similar, students who declared the minor before the major was introduced may not be able to switch to the major, depending on how far along on the program they are, Brenning said.
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“Most of the current juniors and seniors ... it's not possible for them to switch because they're basically too far along in their program to make this switch, which is unfortunate,” she said.
The introduction of the major was made possible by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s approval of new teacher education degrees in June 2019. The new law allowed students to major in education rather than the subject they would teach.
“As we work to strengthen Virginia’s educator pipeline, I am pleased to see the approval of these comprehensive changes that will create new pathways to the classroom and help increase both the supply and the diversity of quality teachers in the Commonwealth,” Northam said in a news release.
The process to create the elementary education major took a long time because of concerns about the major's fit for UR's liberal arts mission, Stohr-Hunt said. Although the major was approved as a three-year pilot, Stohr-Hunt has reservations about the length of the pilot, she said.
“That doesn't make a lot of sense to me because in three years you won't have any graduates, and it's hard to know what the numbers will look like,” Stohr-Hunt said.
The last step for the program to be fully accredited is the approval of the Virginia Department of Education. The March meeting for reviewal of proposals was canceled because of COVID-19.
Stohr-Hunt, who is part of VDOE's reviewal committee, said the program would move forward and she expected it to gain official approval in late summer.
Contact news editor Jackie Llanos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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