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Teacher Quality

Getting students to enter teaching is only half the battle, however. Nationally, statistics show that about 50 percent of new teachers leave teaching after five years. A longitudinal study of Center X graduates from 1997 through 2005 found that after five years, about 75 percent of Center X alumnae were still teaching, and another 11 percent were still in education in another capacity, such as in administration. The study began in 2000, conducted by a research group within UCLA.

While Center X students were originally about 50 percent white, that percentage has dropped to about 14 percent and Latino enrollment has climbed dramatically. (Overall, enrollment in the teacher education program in 2004 was 18 percent Asian, 30 percent Chicano/ Latino, 5 percent African American, and 29 percent "other.")

"When we first started, this program was geared to help white students understand these issues," notes Eloise Lopez Metcalfe, director of the center's Teacher Education Program. "Clearly the composition of who we are teaching is changing," with class and immigrant issues increasingly coming to the fore.

Given both the number of programs and the complexity of teacher preparation — particularly within the context of a nationally renowned research university such as UCLA — it's hard to get one's arms around Center X. Over three days of interviews with staff, students, and alumni, several themes emerged. Some are unmistakable, such as a commitment to social justice and urban schools and linking research with practice. Others are subtler, such as openness to collaboration and change and a respect for classroom teachers — the latter influenced by the strong classroom background of many leaders and staff of Center X.

For instance, Jody Priselac, executive director of Center X, was a math teacher for 18 years in the LA schools. Lopez Metcalfe taught in elementary schools for 20 years.

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