Elizabeth Vierkant –
A new policy was recently proposed by the University of Wisconsin System. This revision would include the elimination of all programs that do not graduate at least five students on average each year.
Each degree program is reviewed every four years by the Planning and Review Committee (PRC). The PRC looks at the performance of each program’s enrollment, employment rates and more.
The policy will eliminate the science education major at University of Wisconsin-Stout. This major is included in the teaching, learning and leadership department. It has been a part of UW-Stout’s system since 2009.
Kevin Mason, the program director for the science education major said, “[The policy] changes our current practice in several ways. One, it puts more decision-making authority at the UW System level instead of leaving each campus to develop their own criteria for their review process.”
Mason said that he is concerned the new policy doesn’t consider other factors, such as the employment rate of a program.
According to Mason, if the science education program is eliminated, there will be other options. The program may be merged with the technology education major. This would mean that science education could be offered as a concentration or a minor instead of a major.
This policy has yet to be approved. “There are three possible outcomes [it could be]: approved as it is, revised and approved, or it could be not approved at all,” said Mason.
Currently on the University of Wisconsin’s website, UW-Stout faculty and staff are able to comment on the revision until Dec. 21. Shortly after, a decision on the revision will be made.
“I’m opposed to the new policy for several reasons. […] When we’re evaluating a program, there’s a lot of different ways we can measure the productivity of viability of that program,” said Mason. “We shouldn’t measure anything based on just one factor. I would prefer a system that considers more information and multiple factors in making the decision.”
According to Mason, this revision should consider the factors of cost and benefits of a program along with the size. The science education major prepares science teachers, which there is a shortage of within Wisconsin. In the field of teaching, the areas that are in the greatest demand are science, technology, math, and special education.
Mason said. “There are several assumptions made in considering only the size of the program. One is they assume that small programs are not cost-efficient, that we’re wasting resources.”
According to Mason, in regards to the science education program, this isn’t true. Those in the major share all of their courses with other programs on campus.
Students take their science classes with science majors and education classes with education majors. There are no courses made specifically for science education majors.
“There’s a real need in our schools both locally, statewide, and nationally for science teachers,” Mason said. “Currently, we have a lot of programs throughout the state, but even with science-ed programs at universities across the state, we still don’t produce enough science teachers to fill all the positions at schools.”