Nonteachers Trained To Teach in Maine
The University of Southern Maine, in conjunction with the Portland Public School District, is scheduled to begin offering an experimental teacher-preparation program this month that will address an impending teacher shortage in the state by attracting teacher candidates from other professions.
The six-month program, which is described as a "radical" departure from traditional teacher-training programs, seeks individuals who are interested in a "mid-career change," according to Loren W. Downey, dean of the university's college of education.
So far, Mr. Downey said, the response has been "enormous;" about 60 applications have been submitted for the 15 openings. He said one applicant has completed a bachelor's and two master's degrees and is currently employed as an urban planner.
Applicants are required to have at least "an arts and science degree." They will also undergo a rigorous screening process that will be limited to "those who possess the intellectual, personal, social, and emotional qualifications required of successful teachers," according to a written proposal for the program. "This emanated from a real concern about who will be teaching in future years," Mr. Downey said. "We're looking at factors that would help retain teachers."
Those selected will participate in a six-week summer session that includes "a week of challenging and difficult activity," simi-lar to the Outward Bound program, according to Mr. Downey.
Following the summer session, participants will have about eight weeks for independent study. Mr. Downey said they will use this period to prepare for student-teaching internships in the Portland school system; each teacher candidate will be supervised by a master teacher and a faculty adviser. The program will have a core faculty team drawn from the college of education and the Portland schools.
Mr. Downey said those who complete the program will be certified to teach in Maine's secondary schools, but they will continue to work with a designated mentor from the education faculty.
The state board of education has give the program a "one-time blanket approval," and, Mr. Downey said, will review its decision after an evaluation of the experimental program has been conducted.
The state automatically grants certification to teacher candidates who satisfactorily complete a state-board approved teacher-education program, he said.
The absence of familiar teacher-training structures, according to Mr. Downey, will help counter the exodus of teachers from the profession by attracting candidates who are both interested and and academically able. He said that without some new approach to training teachers, education schools will not be able to meet the demand for better-prepared and higher-caliber personnel for the public schools.