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AACTE Decides Not To Support Teaching Board

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Washington--In the first formal opposition to the national effort to certify highly skilled teachers, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education voted last week not to support the work of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

At its semiannual meeting here, the association's board of directors voted unanimously to urge the board to reconsider its proposed requirements for national certification.

Aacte, which represents more than 700 colleges and universities that train teachers, objected to the national board's decision not to tie eligibility for certification to such "quality controls" as state licensure and graduation from an accredited teacher-education program.

The national board had decided this summer to offer the opportunity to become nationally certified to any teacher who has a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution, and who has successfully completed three years of teaching at one or more elementary or secondary schools.

"The National Board purports in its initial policy report to complement existing controls, but in fact the board has proposed bypassing current program approval, licensure, and accreditation procedures," according to a statement released by John I. Goodlad, president of aacte, after the association's meeting last week.

The association "fears that the national board's approach to assure quality will lower the very quality the board seeks to elevate," the statement says.

The national board plans to develop a set of complex assessments of knowledge and performance with which to measure accomplished teaching. It intends to begin offering certificates in 29 fields by 1993.

James A. Kelly, president and chief executive officer of the national board, said there has been "zero" organized opposition to the board's stated goals.

"Aacte has been the only organization, as such, that has expressed reservations about the board, from among our hundreds of constituents,'' he said.

"The board believes that its policy framework is sound," Mr. Kelly said. "The board believes that its prerequisite requiring three years of experience for any candidate for board certification represents an acknowledgment of the importance of proper preparation and early experience."

In addition, he said, the framework "allows states, localities, and private schools themselves to determine the ground rules for getting that preparation and experience."

In establishing prerequisites for board certification, the 63-member board said requiring graduation from a teacher-education program would be "controversial and difficult to legitimize." The problem, the board said, is that such a requirement would exclude many otherwise qualified private- and postsecondary-school teachers.

Moreover, the board noted, such a requirement would raise the issue of what constitutes valid accreditation. Because state program-approval standards vary widely, it said, using them would not be fair.

The board argued that requiring graduation from a school accredited by a professional body, such as the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, would have limited certification only to graduates of ncate-approved institutions.

Finally, the board noted that "any education prerequisite runs up against the board's fundamental orientation toward performance rather than toward design standards."

Mr. Goodlad said, however, that "there is nothing more variable in America" than the quality of undergraduate programs and the first three years of teaching experience.

"If they put all their chips on the assessment" of certification candidates, he said of the board, "they're dead."

Aacte's directors said the national board had contradicted itself in rejecting requirements on state licensure and pedagogical preparation.

In its policy report, the directors noted, the board states that "the combination of a rigorous assessment, an extended course of professional study, and a well-supervised clinical practicum provides the strongest warrant of competence."

Such an acknowledgement is an argument in favor of professional training, said Mr.Goodlad, who is also director of the Center for Educational Renewal at the University of Washington.

"We're saying, 'If this option is both legitimate and not controversial in the other professions, why can it not be made legitimate for the teaching profession?"' he asked.

But Mr. Kelly said the board would be "vulnerable to that criti4cism" only if it had not required three years of employment. Most working teachers will have been required to graduate from a teacher-education program and will have been licensed by the state, the national board noted in its report.

The aacte directors did not disagree over whether to oppose the national board, said David G. Imig, the association's executive director. They did, however, debate whether to issue a public statement detailing their objections.

"We could not remain silent and add to an image that the teacher-education group is impotent," Mr. Goodlad said. "The only problem we had to deal with was the way in which we would state our objections. We feel the profession is being cheated."

Despite his reservations about the board's policies, Mr. Goodlad said he favors the development of better assessments of teacher performance. Initially, he said, he thought national certification would be "frosting on the cake," not a mechanism to supplant existing quality controls.

Arthur E. Wise, director of the rand Corporation's Center for the Study of the Teaching Profession, said aacte's vote "drives an unfortunate schism between the traditional teacher-education community and the national board."

"That is unfortunate," he said, "because I think that the two working in concert could strengthen each other."

"The national board, in holding itself out from the existing establishment and its procedures, is remaining agnostic with respect to whether teaching is, in fact, a knowledge-based profession," he added. "In the established professions, the way that you acquire knowledge is through formal study in professional schools."

In March 1988, aacte's governing board also opposed the national board's request for $25 million in research funds from the federal government.

Calling such funding a "sole-source award," the association argued that it would bypass the traditional mechanisms of peer review and open competition.

The national board's request for funds is pending in the Congress.

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