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Conn. Adopts 25 Measures To Improve Teaching

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The Connecticut board of education has approved broad measures to improve the quality of teachers in the state. The modifications range from initiatives to urge high-school students to pursue careers in teaching, to basic-skills tests for education-school graduates and proposals for state grants to stimulate staff-development efforts.

Widespread Erosion

Reacting, as many other states have in the last few years, to a widespread erosion of public confidence in public-school teachers, the board unanimously adopted a 25-point package of mandates and proposals that resulted from a two-year study by a 50-member panel of educators, parents, citizens, and representatives of business and labor.

The panel was appointed jointly by Mark R. Shedd, Connecticut's commissioner of education, and Michael D. Usdan, then the state's commissioner of higher education.

Statewide Standards

Prominent among the measures adopted by the board is a provision that will require all prospective teachers and education-school applicants to meet statewide standards on a basic-skills test that will cover reading, writing, and mathematics.

Those with degrees in fields other than education will also have to pass the examination in order to be certified to teach in the state.

Connecticut is the 14th state in recent years to require such testing for admission to education programs and the 19th state to require skills tests for certification.

The admissions test--described as a "screening device" by June K. Goodman, the newly appointed board chairman--will be selected by the state board within the next year, field-tested in 1984, and put into place by the fall of 1985. Under a similar schedule, an "exit" examination for education-school students is to be in place by the spring of 1985.

The state's two leading teachers' unions, the Connecticut Education Association and the Connecticut State Federation of Teachers (csft) reluctantly endorsed the testing plan.

Attract the Best Students

Said John F. Malsbenden, assistant to the president of csft: "The state should be using the money it will take to develop these tests [an estimated $750,000] to attract the best students into teaching, rather than discouraging mediocre students from entering the profession."

Added Mark R. Shibles, dean of the school of education at the University of Connecticut at Storrs and a member of the panel that studied the state's teaching profession for two years: "Many people jump to the conclusion that by having a minimum- skills test you are assured of having quality teachers. I don't believe that for a minute."

Unusually Comprehensive

The 25-part plan adopted by the state board of education is unusually comprehensive. It attempts to make improvements in all areas of the teaching profession, from recruiting students into teaching to ensuring the continued retraining of teachers who have been in the classroom for a number of years.

Under the plan, the state board also:

Asked school districts to set up programs to heighten the awareness of high-school students about the possibility of teaching as a career, by giving them opportunities to serve as tutors or teachers' aides.

Ordered the creation of an ad hoc citizens' group to propose policies to attract and retain "quality" teachers. The group will study measures such as incentive pay to attract teachers of subjects in which there are now teacher shortages.

Ordered a study of the supply and demand of teachers in the state, as well as a study of the causes of teachers' dissatisfaction, which will include a follow-up survey of the teachers in the state who leave the profession within the next three years.

Established an advisory group of educators and citizens to review and strengthen the state's certification standards.

Committed itself to creating staff-development guidelines for school districts--in cooperation with educators, parents, and representatives of business and labor-- by June 1984. The state's school districts will be expected to develop long-term staff-improvement plans by the following year. In addition, the board recommended that the Connecticut legislature offer short-term incentive grants to school districts for professional-development activities.

Recommended that the state legislature also provide grants to people who enroll in graduate courses in subjects in which there are shortages of teachers.

Encouraged school districts to use federal block-grant funds for staff-development programs and urged that districts give first-year teachers support through programs such as a mentor system.

Recommended further study of the possibility of requiring new teachers to complete a one-year internship before being certified and of requiring practicing teachers to be re-certified every few years.

Approximately 30 states now reqire some form of re-certification for their teachers.

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