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School-Boards Group Offers Guide on Teacher Supply

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In an attempt to help school-board members devise their own solutions to problems of teacher supply and quality, the National School Boards Association last week released a report that includes "check lists'' of suggested actions tailored for local policymakers.

The report--the first of 10 monographs on educational issues the N.S.B.A. plans to publish this year--alerts board members to "two important and related facts'': Teacher supply is declining, and teacher preparedness "is, in many cases, inadequate.''

The extent of these problems, the report states, "may suggest to school-district leaders that reform of the teaching profession is a matter beyond their control.''

"But, in fact,'' it continues, "the responsibility for putting into practice many of the policies designed to improve teaching--and hence ameliorate predicted teacher shortages and inadequately prepared teachers in the classroom--rests in large measure with local school-district leaders.''

Moreover, it argues, "by presenting state officials with education reforms instead of waiting for state initiatives to be developed and then responding to them, district leaders can go far toward influencing the direction that state teacher-reform initiatives take.''

While many of the recent national reports on education have addressed the problems of teacher supply and quality, said Jonathan T. Howe, president of the 97,000-member association, "the solutions recommended are too often simplistic and overgeneralized.''

"They speak to America as a whole, not to each individual school district,'' he said.

Focus on Local Leaders

The N.S.B.A., Mr. Howe said, prepared its report, titled "Good Teachers: An Unblinking Look at Supply and Preparedness,'' specifically for local leaders.

"What makes this an important document is that it gives guidance to the local school-board members and school administrators as to what they may do to go forward in an intelligent way with reform,'' Mr. Howe said.

The 44-page report presents an overview of the issues associated with teacher supply and demand, recruitment, and preparedness. It also includes a summary of the findings and proposals of three major national reports: Tomorrow's Teachers, by the Holmes Group, A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century, by the Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession, and Time for Results: The Governors' 1991 Report on Education, by the National Governors' Association.

In addition, the monograph contains detailed statistical information on the teaching profession, as well as lists of suggested "policy actions'' for district leaders to consider.

"I think this is the first time anyone has taken a series of national reports which address [teacher] issues on a national basis and attempted to condense them down into a workable ... check list for the local boards of education,'' Mr. Howe said.

Policy Suggestions

The report was prepared by N.S.B.A. staff members, but it does not constitute a statement of association policy or an endorsement of specific proposals. It suggests, among numerous other measures, that local policymakers:

  • Develop and evaluate assistance programs for beginning teachers.
  • Establish mechanisms for more fully involving teachers in designing education programs, and for gathering information on teachers' perceptions of their working conditions.
  • Consider strategies to gain public support for restructuring the schools and the teaching profession.
  • Create an ongoing, annually funded teacher-recruitment program, and ensure that strategies for recruiting and promoting teachers are clear and well designed.
  • Develop programs that encourage high-school students to consider teaching as career.
  • Ensure that district standards allow for flexibility in teacher hiring, but are not lowered when there is a critical shortage of teachers.
  • Institute a strong continuing-education plan for teachers.

Copies of the monograph are available from the N.S.B.A., 1680 Duke St., Alexandria, Va. 22314.

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