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Hundreds in New Jersey Seek Alternative Teaching Certificates

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New Jersey's alternative-certification plan, which allows prospective teachers to bypass traditional teacher-training programs, has attracted nearly 1,000 candidates, one fouth of whom are from the state's parochial and private schools, a state education official reported last week.

While the vast majority of the 965 candidates seeking certification through the so-called "alternative route" are nonteachers "looking for a career change," an estimated 25 percent are people "currently teaching in a setting other than the public schools," said Leo F. Klagholz, director of teacher preparation and certification for the state department of education.

The alternative route, which was proposed in the fall of 1983 by the state's education commissioner,3Saul Cooperman, as a way of attracting more people to teaching, allows school districts to select qualified candidates to participate in one-year internships that can lead to certification.

To qualify for the alternative route, a college graduate must first take and pass the National Teacher Examinations in his or her field of study and then find a teaching position in a public school.

About 56 of the state's 600 school districts are participating in the program and are currently developing an "alternative-route plan" with the state, Mr. Klagholz said. More than 400 of the applicants have passed the nte and about 70 schools have expressed interest in interviewing candidates.

"We are very pleased with this initial response," Mr. Klagholz said. "We were told no one would be interested in public-school teaching, but we found there are lots of good people that want to come into the profession and it took nothing more than a minimal effort to find them."

'Narrow Pool of Teachers'

Public education has limited itself to "a narrow and increasingly mediocre pool of teachers," Mr. Klagholz said. "What we are doing here is expanding the size and quality of that pool."

About 50 of the teacher candidates are graduating college seniors who were recruited by the state from some of the nation's most prestigious colleges and universities, Mr. Klagholz noted. Some of the campuses visited by state recruiters included Harvard, Brown, Princeton, and Yale Universities, and Mount Holyoke, Smith, and Swarthmore Colleges.

The new plan frees a district to hire a Harvard University graduate in mathematics who is interested in teaching rather than a less-qualified certified teacher, Mr. Klagholz noted. Thus, for the first time, the public sector can compete with the state's private and parochial schools for noncertified college graduates, he said. Many schools in the private sector do not require their teachers to be certified.

"I don't think we have to apologize for being competitive with the private and parochial schools," Mr. Klagholz said. "We want the best people, whether they come from parochial and private schools, the corporate world, the liberal-arts programs of prestigious universities, or the traditional teacher-education programs."

No Turnover Noticed

More than 200 teachers currently teaching in the private sector are seeking state certification through the alternative route, Mr. Klagholz estimated.

But state private- and parochial-school officials said they had not noticed an increase in faculty turnover because of the plan. And one official, F. Edward Potter Jr., president of the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools, said he has never received more applications for teaching positions than this year.

"I don't see this draining people from the private schools," said Mr. Potter, who is headmaster of the Peddie School, a private boarding school. "I think any legislation that attracts more qualified people into the field of education and raises the respect of the profession will benefit both public and private schools."

While the public schools can usually offer teachers more money than private schools, certain aspects of those schools, such as smaller class sizes, a less disruptive working environment, and such perquisites as free tuition for faculty members' children, will enable private schools to keep competing with the public sector for qualified teachers, Mr. Potter argued.

Sister Doris Ann Bowles, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Newark, agreed.

"A large number of the teachers in Catholic schools know they could get higher salaries in public school," Sister Bowles said. "But they remain in the Catholic schools because they feel the schools promote the values they want to teach."

Sister Bowles said, however, that if the new certification plan draws scarce mathematics and science teachers from the parochial schools to the public schools, "it will be less than desirable."

"Any procedure that would cause us to lose good teachers would not be viewed favorably," Sister Bowles said.

The alternative-certification program has been funded in part by a $100,000 grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. The funds have been earmarked to support fellowships for 15 applicants, to defray the cost of a recruitment and placement officer, and to finance a variety of conferences and workshops related to the program.

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