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The Condition of Teaching: Early Drafts Harder Hitting

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A Nation at Risk's recommendations for making teaching more professional were "watered down'' as the writing and editing process continued, several of those involved in the drafting agreed last week.

A Feb. 23 draft, for example, said, "Teaching must be made into a true profession, on a par with such other professions as law and medicine.''

"The Commission believes that the professional working life of teachers is now on the whole unacceptable, and that improving it is one of the most important issues facing American education,'' the draft stated.

And it advocated that "teachers themselves,'' through a peer-review system, "control the setting of compensation, the awarding of tenure, and major curriculum decisions.''

The same draft also urged setting aside "substantial blocks of time'' during the school day, the school week, and the summer for teachers to update their skills and pursue their academic interests.

In contrast, language in the final report is much more circumspect.

The seven-part recommendation on teaching is designed to "make teaching a more rewarding and respected profession.'' Salaries should be "professionally competitive, market-sensitive, and performance-based,'' it asserts, but makes no mention of either law or medicine.

Although it advocates tying salary, promotion, tenure, and retention decisions to an "effective evaluation system that includes peer review,'' it does not suggest placing such decisions entirely in the hands of teachers.

'Would Be Too Long'

The report says virtually nothing about the content of teacher-preparation programs.

In contrast, earlier versions stated that training programs should "significantly increase'' their requirements in the liberal arts, in the prospective teacher's academic major, in training about how students learn, and in the use of case methods.

Drafts of the report also urged a reduction in methods courses, the creation of a first-year teaching "internship,'' and other options that would extend the training period for prospective teachers beyond the usual four years. None of those recommendations appear in the final document.

William O. Baker, a member of the commisson, admitted last week that the final report dealt "very inadequately'' with the problems of teacher training.

"It was recognized as a very large issue, and we therefore felt that the report would be too long,'' he said. "We also felt that we weren't competent to deal as effectively with the topic as was warranted.''

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