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Board's Move on Standards Panel Upsets Vermont Teachers' Union

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Vermont would become the latest state to establish a teacher-led professional-standards board, under a resolution passed last week by the state board of education.

The licensing body will not be fully autonomous, however, as leaders of a state teachers' union had urged. Instead, the state board will retain the right to review and reject its policies.

In its resolution, the board also accepted a recommendation from the state's commissioner of education to delay implementation of a related series of proposals to raise standards for teachers.

Citing a lack of information about the costs and benefits of the changes he had proposed earlier, Commissioner Richard P. Mills urged the board of education to assign the task of recommending further reforms to the newly created licensing board. (See Education Week, Nov. 30, 1988.)

The creation of the licensing panel now faces review by the legislature's administrative-rules committee, which is considered to be just a technicality, according to Nicole Gakidis, spokesman for the state department of education.

Approximately $200,000 has been earmarked for the licensing board's operation in the state board's proposed budget, she said.

The state board's vote represented a victory for school administrators, who were wary of the proposed reforms. It also marks a significant setback for the union leadership's drive for a fully autonomous licensing board and rapid implementation of additional professional standards.

"If the commissioner expects total agreement on every detail before the proposal can be implemented, the proposal is headed for never-never land," said Maida F. Townsend, president of the Vermont-nea, in a statement released the day of the board's vote. "And then, maybe, that is part of his plan for 'postponement."'

Mr. Mills said that he was not "postponing" or "backing off" from his previous proposals to raise teaching standards in the state.

"I want to go forward with it," he said. "The licensing system that we have makes no sense at all."

In advising the board to reject the union's position, Mr. Mills said that "the debate has centered on how to advance the profession and on issues of the professional control of licensing standards."

"But totally absent has been any statement of what educators need to know and be able to do before we will give them responsibility for our children's education," he wrote in a Feb. 21 memorandum to the state board.

Ms. Townsend called this statement "most disappointing--the most outrageous and outraging of the commissioner's new objections."

Saying that the quality of teaching has been the union's foremost concern over the past two years of debate, she charged that "it has been irresponsible for him to wait until the final week of the process to make [his position] known."

The state board set a series of4deadlines for the licensing board to prepare various recommendations on changing professional standards, after it begins its work on July 1.

The licensing body will be expected to recommend, for state-board enactment:

A definition of what teachers and administrators need to know and be able to do, by December 1989.

A preservice teacher-preparation program "that includes a major in the liberal arts and sciences for all fields except the trades and industry, and shall indicate the proper place of pedagogy, subject-matter knowledge, practice teaching, and internship or mentorship," by July 1990.

Alternative methods to provide for high-quality, practical professional development "that links school practitioners and higher education,'' by July 1990.

A "results oriented" set of standards for approving teacher-preparation programs, by July 1991.

A plan for affordable, accessible, practical, high-quality programs and courses for teacher preparation at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, by July 1991.

A new assessment of professional knowledge and skills, based on "what is essential to effective practice, rather than what is easy to measure," by December 1992.

Operating procedures for proposed local relicensure boards, by July 1990.

Associate Editor Lynn Olson contributed to this report.

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