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Texas Board Considering 3-Tiered Certification

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Texas will soon join the growing list of states that are raising standards for would-be teachers in an effort to upgrade the quality of education statewide.

The state board of education is considering a proposal that would replace the present teacher-certification program with three new classes of certification, beginning May 1, 1986. The plan has already been approved by the state legislature.

Currently, Texas is one of the few states in the nation that grant a "permanent certificate with a bachelor's degree," said Edward M. Vodicka, director of the commission on standards for the teaching profession, the group that developed the new system.

The proposal, after its expected approval by the state board, will introduce three types of certificates for the state's 160,000 teachers. Only one of the certificates would be "valid for life." They are:

The provisional certificate: This certificate is good for three years. A bachelor of arts degree from an approved teacher-education institution, a recommendation from that institution, and a passing score on a comprehensive examination to be designated or developed by the state board of education are required. This certificate is renewable once--for three years--with completion of six additional semester-hours in the area of certification or assignment.

The standard certificate: This certificate is good for seven years. Applicants must have a valid provisional certificate, three years' teaching experience, and a recommendation from the school district that employed them most recently. In addition, applicants must have completed 12 semester-hours, beyond the requirements for their current certificate, from an accredited teacher-education school. The standard certificate can be renewed upon completion of an additional 12 graduate hours.

The professional certificate: This certificate is good for life. To obtain it, holders of a provisional certificate must have three years' teaching experience, a recommendation from their district, and a master's or doctoral degree in their specialty from an approved teacher-education school. Holders of a standard certificate must obtain a master's or doctoral degree.

All teachers currently certified will be exempt from the new requirements, Mr. Vodicka said.

Renewable Certificate System

The 16-member commission on standards--a group charged by the legislature to devise recommendations for a renewable certificate system--began work on the proposals in 1979.

Some features of the proposals--such as the 1986 phase-in--resulted from the concern, expressed during public hearings, that students who entered teacher education under the old system ought not to be affected, according to Jack Kelly, a legislative analyst for the 65,000-member Texas State Teachers Association, the state's largest teacher group.

Now, he said, high-school seniors will know the new requirements exist before they decide to begin training to become teachers.

Ann B. Pennington, director of the pro-fessional-excellence department in the 30,000-member Texas Classroom Teachers Association, said her group supports the three classes of certificates.

Of the three teacher-education organizations in the state, only the Texas Federation of Teachers (tft)--an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers that represents 15,000 teachers in the state--has strong objections to the new rules.

John E. Cole, president of tft, said the requirement that a prospective teacher have the recommendation of his "last employing school district" puts too much power in the hands of local school boards.

"Every year, we have teachers fired because they offend some rural school board by getting a divorce, supporting the wrong political party, or even because they sponsor a dance," he said.

Mr. Cole also said the continuing-education requirement will be difficult for some Texas teachers. "Many live hundreds of miles from the nearest college," he said.

Mr. Vodicka of the state education department agreed, but said there are 63 institutions that prepare teachers in Texas. "There would not be a great many teachers who could not reach one of them," he noted.

The legislature also called on the state board to establish two examinations for prospective teachers.

The first, to be initiated in 1984, would be a basic-literacy exam that a student must pass before being admitted to a teacher-education program; the other, to be given first in 1986, would be a comprehensive examination given to graduating seniors in their teaching field. These exams are being developed by the state board of education and the state citizens' advisory committee on education.

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