N.J. Gov. Offers Plan To Waive Education Courses for Teachers
Gov. Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey last week proposed that people who have no education-school training be allowed to teach in the state's public schools--a plan that, if approved by the state's board of education and legislature, would become the first of its kind in the country.
Governor Kean told a special joint session of the legislature that the U.S. educational system has put the nation in a "terrifying" position. He said he would seek passage of a wide range of initiatives, including more state aid to achieve a minimum salary of $18,500 for beginning teachers, a "master-teacher" program, a new institute for professional development, and changes in standards for graduation and accreditation.
The board is expected to take final action on the proposals--developed under the direction of Commissioner of Education Saul Cooperman--next April.
Officials of educational organizations praised some of the Governor's proposals, but many took issue with the plan to eliminate the requirement that prospective teachers take courses in methodology and psychology that are traditionally part of the education-school curriculum.
Any measure that requires additional state aid must be approved by the legislature. The other proposals could be enacted by the state board of education, but the legislature has the power to block any of the board's policies.
A spokesman for Governor Kean said the state would not raise any new tax revenues to pay for the plan, but would shift outlays in the state budget. Of the $32 million that state officials expect the minimum-salary plan to cost in its first year, $8 million will go to hire new teachers and $24 million will go to raise to the new minimum the salaries of teachers already in the system.
Mr. Cooperman has estimated that about half of the state's teaching force will leave the system in the next 10 years. A statistician for the department said there were 3,326 teachers with less than one year of experience in the system in 1982-83.
To balance its $6.8-billion budget last year, New Jersey froze outlays for 17 of the state's 20 departments, the spokesman said. Elementary and secondary education and higher education were two of the departments that received funding increases.
If the state does not act to improve the educational system, Mr. Kean said, it will have to confront in the future "an entire generation of dislocated workers."
"For too long, we have been tyrannized by minimums, dictated by the lowest common denominator," the Governor said. "Yesterday's minimum is no longer enough."
The proposal to open the public-school teaching profession to people who do not attend education schools, the Governor said, would attract many bright people who want to teach, "but [who] will not go back to college to take superfluous courses" at education schools.
Under the proposal he submitted last Thursday to the board of education, the state would require teaching candidates to hold a baccalaureate degree, demonstrate proficiency in a subject area on a state examination, and serve as a teaching intern for one year. School districts would still have the option of hiring teaching candidates who pursue conventional teacher training.
"I feel very strongly that this will bring a breath of fresh air into the public schools," the Governor said. "It will offer an alternate route for those who want to teach but who do not want a degree in education, preferring to concentrate in another field."
Lloyd Newbaker, executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, said the program "certainly provides [school administrators with] an option, a means by which they can look at more, and more qualified, teaching candidates."
But the New Jersey Education Association disagreed. "Our position is that no teacher should go before the classroom without professional preparation," said Donald S. Rosser, associate director of communications for the union.
Robert Roth, a past president of the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, said the plan "ignores everything we know about teaching and learning, and implies that there is nothing to know about it."
Recent initiatives in Michigan and West Virginia to consider the "developmental growth levels" of students in the classroom, Mr. Roth said, show that more rather than less consideration of methodology might be desirable.
Mr. Roth, director of teacher preparation and certification for Michi-gan's education department, also said passage of the proposal could result in the demise of schools of education in New Jersey.
Under Governor Kean's five-year program to raise the minimum salary level of starting teachers, the state would pay the difference between the current starting salary of a teacher and $18,500 for the first year of the program, 80 percent of the difference in the second year, 60 percent in the third year, 40 percent in the fourth year, and and 20 percent in the fifth year.
Teachers now in the classroom who pass the state teachers' examination but are making less than $18,500 would also receive the minimum salary. The state would not increase its outlays for teachers who already earn more than $18,500. Any adjustments that districts make in the top of the salary structure would be at their own expense.
The average starting salary in the state is now $11,000, a spokesman for the education department said. The highest starting salary in the state is $12,795, the spokesman said.
Mr. Rosser contended that the diminished distinction between beginning and veteran teachers would create "dissension." But others said the higher base salary would probably create the pressure in collective bargaining to upgrade the whole salary structure.
Mr. Newbaker of the njsba said he has commissioned a study of the plan's possible effects on collective bargaining. If the base-pay hike does have a "ripple effect," he said, it could raise basic questions about school finance.
"I have a bit of anxiety there," he said. "It has the potential for putting pressure on the local property tax" since the program would increase state aid only for base pay.
The Governor's other plans were greeted with less skepticism than the proposals for changes in certification regulations and higher starting salaries.
The proposal for a pilot "master teacher" program was endorsed by both the state teachers' union and the school-boards association. Governor Kean said the details of the program--which would award $5,000 to the top 5 percent of teachers in five school districts--would be developed by a Governor's commission.
Mr. Rosser, the union's spokesman, said his organization would support the idea if those named master teachers were not given duties outside the classroom as part of the award.
(Gov. Charles S. Robb of Virginia also named a committee last week to develop a master-teacher program in that state. The 20-member panel is made up of citizens, teachers, school officials, and representatives of the state's chamber of commerce and parent-teacher association.)
(Governor Robb said master teachers would help improve curriculum, work with less experienced colleagues, and help integrate technology into the state's public schools. The pilot projects proposed by the panel will be launched in early 1984 and will be funded with a special $500,000 state appropriation.)
Governor Kean's proposal to create a new state "Academy for the Advancement for Teaching and Management" was also praised by representatives of teachers and administrators. The Governor said the academy would consolidate current research and staff-development efforts, which he criticized as undemanding.
"All professionals want to learn, to grow," he said. "They want to benefit from the latest research. They want to learn how to transform theory into practice, how to develop the skills they have now and to learn new ones."
The Governor's other proposals would:
Require all students to be proficient in English in order to earn a high-school diploma. Bilingual students who enter the state educational system before the 9th grade would be required to take the state basic-skills test in English before graduation. Those who failed would receive a review course in English.
Students who speak a foreign language and enter the system after the 9th grade would also be required to demonstrate proficiency in English before graduating, but would be allowed to take basic-skills review courses in their native language.
Strengthen state monitoring of district performance, and give "intensive review" and assistance to districts that do not meet state requirements.
Develop new policies for dealing with discipline problems and with drug and alcohol abuse.