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Vt. Board Seeks Training for Non-Education Majors

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The Vermont Board of Education moved last week to develop a state program for training college graduates with liberal-arts degrees to become teachers in elementary and secondary schools.

The board approved a wide-ranging set of proposals to improve teacher training that will involve the state's department of education, the state college system, and public schools across the state. Trustees of the college system approved a similar plan the previous week.

The board of education's package includes measures to examine teacher-preparation programs in the state more vigorously, phase out some "weaker programs," and create a task force to investigate student-teaching programs. The board delayed action on a major overhaul of accreditation standards for public schools.

In what officials called the boldest part of the reform package, the state will establish teacher-training institutes for college graduates who have had no formal preparation for teaching. People who complete the program will be given full teacher certification.

The institutes will be completely separate from the undergraduate teacher-training programs now run by the state's five public colleges.

Prospective teachers will need about a year to complete the institute training, but that training will be "flexible," said an offi-cial for the department of education. The program, which its leading architect says will be "fully operational" by next year, is designed to attract to the teaching profession college liberal-arts majors and older people who would like to make mid-career job changes.

"Certification in this country is very much tied up with [undergraduate] education schools," said James Lengel, director of basic education for the state education department. "We think there are a lot of people out there who would like to teach but have gotten the door slammed on them" by requirements for undergraduate study of pedagogy.

Vermont already allows people to receive certification without taking a full undergraduate-education program. But few of the 1,000 teachers hired annually in the state take advantage of the opportunity, Mr. Lengel said, because of regulatory and social problems.

People interested in pursuing certification outside the normal training structure "practically have to put together their own program" with "a little here and a little there," he said.

Many of those people, particularly the older people seeking a career change, he added, also find "sitting with a bunch of undergraduates" uncomfortable.

Basic Curriculum

The new program will combine a basic education curriculum--including the study of child development and classroom management--with extensive student teaching. The program will probably be established at a single college in its early days, and tuition will be comparable to tuition at state colleges, Mr. Lengel said.

The board last week also approved plans to overhaul the state's system for evaluating teacher-training programs. Central to the plans will be the establishment of specialized evaluation teams, which will examine specific programs within a teacher-training institution. The state now assigns one team to evaluate all of the programs offered by education schools.

Mr. Lengel said the new system will encourage colleges to strengthen or abandon their weaker programs. He said he expects a "purge" of weaker programs over the next several years.

Examination of teacher-training programs under the new system will begin this year, a spokesman for the education department said.

The education department and the state college system will create a task force later this year to study student-teaching programs.

The board of education will vote on a set of new accreditation standards for public schools at its next meeting, which is set for March 27. The standards will cover all aspects of school operations, including leadership and learning climate, a spokesman said. Some 500 public-school officials will be trained over the next five years to periodically investigate which schools meet those standards.

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