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July 25, 2014

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UNLV selects new dean of education

UNLV has a new dean for its college of education.

Kim Metcalf, the director of institutional research and planning at the University of West Georgia, will become the seventh education dean starting July 1. UNLV made the announcement in a news release Tuesday morning.

"We are tremendously excited about what Kim can do for our College of Education," UNLV's executive vice president and provost Valery White said in a statement. "Given the importance of secondary education to the future of Nevada and the thirst for creativity in addressing the school system's challenges, Metcalf's leadership will be crucial to ensuring that UNLV is an effective partner for improving education in Nevada."

Metcalf was West Georgia’s dean of education from 2008 to 2012. Previously, he was director of the Indiana Center for Evaluation, and served as an associate superintendent for research and assessment in Bloomington, Ind., public schools.

Metcalf's research has focused on reasons behind school voucher programs' success or failure; why families choose public, private or charter schools; and what makes an effective teacher. Metcalf is a co-author of "The Act of Teaching," which is now in its sixth edition.

Metcalf earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Ohio State University in teacher education and educational research and evaluation, and he received his bachelor’s degree in music education from Ball State University.

“The College of Education at UNLV has a wonderful history and a distinguished reputation,” Metcalf said in a statement. “The College of Education will continue to fill the strong and influential role that is expected of a premier institution, particularly in a period of great uncertainty for higher education and for the disciplines we serve.”

Metcalf, who began his career as a music teacher in Indiana public schools, is known for spearheading a seven-year evaluation of Cleveland's school voucher program, which has been considered one of the oldest and most contentious in the country.

Proponents of school choice have praised Cleveland's voucher program for giving scholarship money – from state per-pupil funding – to low- and middle-income families to send their children to private schools. School choice supporters argue voucher programs allow families to transfer their children from failing public schools to higher-performing private schools.

Critics – including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan – have opposed school voucher programs, arguing that the government should improve public schools and high quality public charter schools instead of subsidizing private and parochial schools. Others have called Cleveland's voucher program unconstitutional because it gives taxpayer money to parochial schools, violating the separation of church and state.

Opponents have appealed Cleveland voucher program to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 2002 that the Cleveland program was constitutional because it doesn't directly fund parochial schools.

Metcalf's appointment comes as Nevada lawmakers debate Gov. Brian Sandoval's school choice bill, which will give a dollar-for-dollar tax credit to companies that donate to private and religious schools.

Senate Bill 445 would create the Nevada Educational Choice Scholarship Program, which gives participating companies up to a $5 million deduction in their modified business tax. The scholarship fund would help low-income families send their children to private or parochial schools, as well as cover the expenses of home-schooling.

Fourteen other states give tax breaks to businesses that donate money to a school voucher program. Proponents argue Nevada's school choice bill will not detract from the funding formula for public schools. Critics however argue that the tax breaks would hurt the state's general fund, which funds K-12 education.

Metcalf succeeds William Speer, who has served as the interim dean to the College of Education since July 2009. The previous dean, M. Christopher Brown II, resigned in June 2009, saying he didn't meet eye-to-eye with some faculty and UNLV President Neal Smatresk, who at the time was the UNLV provost.

Metcalf, who has spoken at several national education conferences, was one of four finalists for the dean of Kansas State University's College of Education in 2012. During the previous year, Metcalf was one of three finalists for the University of South Carolina College of Education.

Metcalf will take the helm of UNLV’s education college in the aftermath of a devastating recession, which has forced UNLV to cut staff and programs in the college.

Since the recession, UNLV's College of Education lost more than 60 percent of its funding. Its six departments were slashed to three. Its faculty, which once numbered 110 strong, was whittled to 80.

The UNLV College of Education offers 25 degrees in three departments: education and clinical studies, education psychology and higher education, and teaching and learning. The college, which was founded in 1957, has more than 2,000 students and is accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Evaluation.

CORRECTION: Kim Metcalf launched a seven-year study on the Cleveland school voucher program, not Indiana's. | (April 17, 2013)

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