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Educators checking out competition at UVSC

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School administrators are calling it bizarre, but elementary-education teachers and executives at Utah Valley State College are gearing up for an evaluation from a team that includes educators from competing schools.

"This is one of the more bizarre aspects of higher education," President Kerry Romesburg said in a recent discussion with the UVSC Board of Trustees. One furniture store won't evaluate a competitor on whether it should open shop, he said, comparing the visit with private enterprise.The four-year elementary education and early childhood development degree won Board of Regents approval Aug. 1, 1996, amid controversy over whether Utah or the region needed another elementary-education program.

The approval included a contingency that UVSC's program go through a three-year probation period to become accredited by the Utah State Office of Education, said Phil Roberson, chairman of the Early Childhood Development Department.

"We're going through that now," said Roberson. The team of up to 20 people made up by the State Office of Education, which includes faculty and teachers from other teacher-education programs in Utah, along with public school and state office officials, will visit the UVSC campus April 29 and 30. The chairman is Arlene Hett, dean of College of Education at the University of Great Falls in Montana, Roberson said.

Already, Roberson's department has held practice visits. And a self-study document that precedes the visit, based on state standards UVSC should meet, is due to the state Department of Education by Tuesday . "You look at yourself over a six-month period and write it up and submit it," Roberson said. The document is used during the review.

"It is a very well-established process that you have an accrediting entity check you out," said Roberson. "It always includes representatives from competitors."

He said the relationship between UVSC's elementary-education program and others in the state is generally good, although competing elementary program officials feel threatened by a new program.

"Their enrollments are in decline and ours are not," he said. "They see it as a monetary threat. The funding scheme is based on enrollment growth." Currently the funding for some institutions remained the same as last year and some lost money because of declining enrollment.

"No one gained funding except us," Roberson said.