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Maryland Urged To Adopt Plan To Recruit and Improve Teachers

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An independent panel of Maryland educators and citizens will recommend that teacher candidates take competency tests and that all practicing teachers be evaluated according to statewide standards.

The recommendations are among 31 proposals for recruiting and retaining better teachers included in a preliminary report, to be completed this week, by the 30-member Maryland Commission for Quality Teaching.

'Accountability' Measures

A rapidly growing number of states have rushed in recent months to adopt similar "accountability" measures in response to a widespread public perception that many of the nation's elementary- and secondary-school teachers are not competent.

The commission was appointed by the Maryland state board of education last June.

Under its plan, students would have to pass a minimum basic-skills test and have a 2.5 grade average (on a scale of 4.0) to be admitted to the state's teacher-education programs.

The commission proposes that students maintain a grade average of 2.75 in their college major and pass another basic-skills examination in order to earn a teaching certificate.

"If teaching is truly to become a profession," said William G. Sykes, chairman of the commission and former president of the state's board of education, "it should have the hallmarks of a profession, including testing, a constant updating of skills, and a willingness to subject itself to continuing public scrutiny."

Mr. Sykes said the commission's recommendation that all teachers be evaluated regularly according to standards set by the state board of education sparked the most controversy within the commission.

"There was concern on the part of some members that teacher evaluation is a local issue," Mr. Sykes said.

The commission, made up of school, state, and higher-education officials, as well as teachers and citizens, will also recommend that the state board:

Conduct an "aggressive" public-relations campaign to improve the public's image of teachers in an effort to attract better students into the profession.

Career days, a statewide advertising campaign, and the re-establishment of the state's Future Teachers of America organization are among the options suggested by the commission.

Establish loans for academically talented students who plan to become teachers, for those who are willing to teach in a geographic area with a shortage of teachers, and for those willing to teach a subject in which teachers are in short supply.

The commission proposes that the loans be "forgiven" at a rate of 25 percent for each year a person teaches.

Recommend that school districts adopt "differential" entry-level salary scales, under which teachers working in subject areas with teacher shortages would be paid more than other teachers.

The commission also recommends that the Maryland state board of education create rankings for classroom teachers, with "significantly different salary scales, in order to encourage superior teachers to remain in the classroom."

Teacher organizations are adamently opposed to both differential- and merit-pay plans.

Urge the state's professional-standards board to be more "prescriptive and rigorous" concerning the general education part of an education student's course of study.

"The liberal-arts courses education students take should be made more demanding," Mr. Sykes said.

Urge education schools to include "clusters" of courses in their curriculum--relating to the use of computers, for example--that would give teachers skills that are applicable to fields other than teaching.

Extensive Training

In addition, the commission makes several recommendations aimed at offering more extensive in-service training to teachers. Among these are a proposal that the state finance in-service activities.

Seventy-five percent of Maryland's teachers have a master's degree or its equivalent and are not required by the state's certification regulations to complete any more college courses or workshops, according to the commission's report.

The commission plans to hold seven public hearings over the summer on its proposals and will submit its final recommendations to the state board of education in the fall.

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