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An 18-month effort by a group of college and university presidents to become more involved in the upgrading of teaching as a profession will get its first full--fledged try-out in Washington State, organizers have announced.

Virtually all the higher-education chief executives in the state will meet in May to ponder individual and collective strategies for reforming teacher training, according to Russell Edgerton, who directs the Presidents' Forum on Teaching as a Profession.

The plan for Washington was unveiled recently at a news conference held by Gov. Booth Gardner and Mr. Edgerton, who is president of the American Association for Higher Education.

Related efforts are getting under way in some other states as well, Mr. Edgerton noted. A dozen or so presidents were to meet this week in Massachusetts, and similar discussions among leaders of institutions in Virginia have intensified in recent months, he said.

The current initiatives spring from a September 1987 meeting of 37 college and university presidents, who vowed to become "champions of the whole education enterprise" through improvements in teacher training. (See Education Week, Sept. 23, 1987.)

Since then, the forum--backed by a $545,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York--has focused on finding a small number of states to serve as laboratories for action by higher-education leaders.

"We have been looking for states where the most useful leadership can be mobilized--states where8there's a lot going for this idea, where presidents can really make a contribution," Mr. Edgerton explained.

Washington was the first state to emerge, he said, because "the chemistry for change is really there."

But what such joint efforts by the presidents will yield, he noted, is still uncertain. Meetings in Washington and elsewhere ultimately could produce legislative proposals in such areas as teacher recruitment and certification, or could concentrate instead on encouraging presidents to do more to promote teaching as a profession on their own campuses.

"This will take different shapes in different settings," he said. ''We're really just trying to catalyze the issue and provide the presidents with a neutral umbrella under which they can grapple with it."--hhd

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