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N. J. Alternative-Certification Plan Shifts Training to District Level

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Trenton, N.J.--A commission looking into an alternative method of licensing teachers has unveiled a plan that would give New Jersey school districts the power to train teachers largely on their own.

Members of the Commission on Alternative Teacher Certification told the State Board of Education last week they believe the so-called "alternative route" will provide rigorous training for people who want to be teachers but do not want to enter teacher-preparation programs in college, the traditional path to certification.

Focus on Apprenticeships

Under the alternative route, teacher candidates could gain their licenses by passing a state competency test in their subject and by successfully completing a one-year apprenticeship in a public-school classroom. During the year, teams of experienced classroom teachers and administrators would monitor the apprentices through classroom observations and supplemental instruction.

The state board is expected to vote on the proposal in September.

Education Commissioner Saul Cooperman proposed the alternative route last fall as a way of attracting more-qualified people to teaching. He says it is his belief that even if his proposal is adopted, most teachers will continue to enter teaching through traditional teacher-preparation programs.

Mr. Cooperman appointed the commission in March to set the guidelines for the alternative certification program. Harry Jaroslaw, superintendent of schools in Tenafly, served as chairman, and Robert Marik, vice-president of Merck and Company Inc. in Rahway, was vice-chairman. Other members included leaders of teachers' unions, parents, businessmen, college officials, and public- and private-school administrators.

Mr. Jaroslaw said the alternative route will give local districts for the first time a direct stake in the training of teachers.

"School districts for years have been nothing more than passive recipients of what they receive from the colleges," he said. "I think the school districts must accept at least partial, but a significant part of, the responsibility for the training of teachers."

Mr. Jaroslaw likened the roles schools would play under the alternative route to that of teaching hospitals, which "assume the responsibility for the continuing training of staff."

Support and Opposition

The commission's final report had the support of 18 of its 21 members. Three panelists--the dean of a college of education and the panel's two teacher representatives--took issue with various aspects of the plan.

The sharpest condemnation came from Marcoantonio Lacatena, president of the New Jersey chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, who said the plan would "open the floodgates" for unqualified people to gain teaching jobs through political ties to school officials. Albert Shanker, president of the aft, has also denounced the plan.

But another member of the commission, Edithe A. Fulton, president of the New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, said that while she wanted the education-school programs to have a stronger role in the alternative route, the njea believes the plan is "worth a try."

Under the commission's guidelines, training programs established by the districts would have to be approved by the State Board of Examiners, which grants teaching certificates in New Jersey. Once a program has been accepted, the districts could hire apprentice teachers who possess a bachelor's degree and 30 college credits in the subject they want to teach.

Before the school year begins, each apprentice would have to participate in a 20-30 day orientation program, run by the district or a college.

The orientation would include both working with a classroom teacher and taking a seminar in the theoretical aspects of teaching.

During the first 10 weeks of school, apprentices would have their own classrooms but would be closely monitored by a professional support team of experienced teachers and administrators. The team would provide supplemental help and bring in experts from local colleges to assist with the training.

For the remainder of the school year, the apprentices would be supervised and assessed. At the end of the year, a second team of teachers and administrators would decide whether to hire the apprentice and recommend to the state that he or she be certified.

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