"Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."

All teachers have heard, at least once, the adage that is basically a slap at their competence.

It's been around for years, but it took on a new meaning five years ago when the report card on U.S. schools, "A Nation at Risk," said that "not enough of the academically able students are being attracted to teaching. . . . Too many teachers are being drawn from the bottom quarter of graduating high school and college students."

But those training - and certifying - Utah teachers say that's just not true. Utah teachers-to-be aren't at the bottom of the academic pile. They perform as well or better than those in other majors at the state's colleges and universities.

"Teaching is not a profession of dropouts who can't make it anywhere else," said Izar Martinez, Utah State University associate dean of education.

"We are finding the caliber of students in education the same as other graduates across the board, even in math," said Garn Coombs, chairman of the Brigham Young University department of secondary education.

Roger Mouritsen, teacher-certification coordinator in the state Office of Education, agrees. He said Utah students training to be teachers perform better academically than other Utah college students, although the very best students, particularly in math and science, often choose careers other than teaching because of higher salaries.

Data compiled by his office shows that students entering teacher-education programs have ACT (American College Test) scores equal to or better than the average ACT scores at their institutions. BYU, USU, the University of Utah, Southern Utah State College, Weber State College and Westminster College have teacher-training programs.

Of those graduating with bachelor's degrees, the mean GPA of teachers-to-be was a "B" or better.

Mouritsen said the quality of students in teacher-preparation courses can be tied to a tightening of both institutional and certification requirements.

Studies at BYU, for example, showed students with a