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Ohio Panel Asks Change in Tenure Law, Teacher Certification Tests

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Cleveland--The Ohio Commission on Excellence in Education has recommended that the state's tenure law be revised to ease the removal of teachers deemed incompetent and that competency tests be developed for those seeking certification, either for the first time or in new teaching fields.

The 21-member advisory panel, appointed a year ago by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Franklin B. Walter, presented its final report to the state board of education last week. Mr. Walter said that some of the panel's recommendations could take the form of requests to the 1984 session of the legislature and that the state board would soon form a committee to work on details of implementing the broader, longer-range recommendations.

"It's comprehensive in nature and addresses all the issues that Ohioans are concerned about to make their schools excellent," Mr. Walter said. "The key to the whole thing appears in the first recommendation: higher expectations. I think we have to concentrate on that. The rest of the report really relates to implementing that. ... While you cannot enforce ideals, you certainly can create a climate, and I think [we] are doing that."

The most concise recommendations are those pertaining to the teaching force. Although the com-mission's report does not spell out recommended changes in the tenure law, Mr. Walter said the group's members were "interested in protecting due process and [seeing that teachers are] fairly dealt with, but they are concerned that the language of our current tenure law is too restrictive. There was a heated discussion on that." The major teachers' organizations have already voiced their opposition to any weakening of tenure protection.

Also with respect to teachers, the commission urged that beginning salaries be raised to competitive levels, which Mr. Walter estimated would cost about $4,000 for each of the state's approximately 100,000 professional educators; that teachers' current 182-day contract year be extended, by an unspecified number of days, in part to permit more time for professional development; that career opportunities be developed to permit "advancement within the teaching profession"; and that new teachers be required to complete a fifth-year postbaccalaureate "seminar" under the supervision of moreexperienced colleagues and university faculty members.

Funds for Low-Interest Loans

In addition, the group would require education schools to become more active in recruiting able students into the teaching profession; tailor continuing-education classes to the needs of local teachers; and require education-school professors to spend time periodically in elementary- and secondary-school classrooms. And it urges the legislature to provide funds for low-interest student loans for prospective teachers.

"Although Ohio has taken many positive steps to improve the preparation of education professionals, such as redesigning teacher-education programs, there is a need for further improvement," says the commission's report, "Responsible Reform: Focusing on the Future."

Among the other recommendations:

Curriculum and standards. The commission notes that the state board of education upgraded its school-accreditation and graduation standards last year, but urges that the state department of education undertake more rigorous reviews to ensure that districts are complying.

The report also encourages districts to emphasize higher-order skills, mathematics, science, and technology without sacrificing instruction in other academic subjects. This, it suggests, can be accomplished through more efficient use of instructional time. The commission leaves open the possibility of extending the current 180-day school year for students, but not until efforts have been made to make better use of the time now allotted.

Technology. The new state minimum standards encourage districts to provide some instruction in computers to all 7th and 8th graders. The commission goes further, recommending that all students learn how to use the computer to access information before graduating from high school.'

Equal Access to Equipment

The legislature, the commission says, should earmark state funds for the purchase of microcomputers and educational software to ensure that students in poorer districts have equal access to equipment.

Delivery systems. School districts should seek to serve the needs of adults better, the panel says, and should provide instruction at sites other than school buildings. Endorsing the value of early-childhood education and acknowledging the increasing need for services, the commission recommends that the state and districts consider making schooling available to 3- and 4-year-olds.

Noting that the state has 615 school districts, plus county education offices, regional special-education consortia, and area vocational schools, the commission recommends that the state take steps to "eliminate overlap among administrative units" and provide incentives for more efficient regional services.

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