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Teacher Educators Offer Alternative-Route Standards

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The Association of Teacher Educators has developed a recommended set of minimum standards to guide the establishment and operation of alternative-certification programs.

The association, based in Reston, Va., has a membership made up primarily of some 5,000 college-level professors and administrators involved in teacher training.

Such professionals have largely been bypassed so far by many alternative-certification programs, which seek to enable people from other professions to become teachers without going through a traditional teacher-training program in a college or university.

Although the group's guidelines condemn the use of "emergency" teaching permits and the hiring of untrained college graduates as teachers, they stress a recognition by the association that, in some urban and remote rural areas, alternative-certification programs may be a necessary antidote to teacher shortages.

"We think all children are entitled to good teachers," said Martin Haberman, a professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Mr. Haberman, whose ideas formed the basis of the National Teachers Corps in the 1960's, chaired a commission set up by the teacher-educators' group to develop the standards.

"Alternative certification to us does not just mean throwing these people into classrooms," Mr. Haberman added. "What we're trying to do is to provide guidelines to give policymakers in the states some vision of what's involved here."

Two Years in the Making

The set of 21 standards, released last week, are the product of two years of research and debate by the group.

As might be expected, they carve out a greater role for schools of education in the development of such programs. But they also suggest that, through collective-bargaining agreements, teacher unions become involved in the process as well.

The guidelines call on schools to provide specially trained mentor teachers to work with alternative-certification candidates in their first year of teaching. The mentors should receive a stipend based on the number of teachers they supervise, the guides suggest, and no more than two beginning teachers should be assigned to each mentor.

"We found some districts where there were over 20 teachers to one mentor," Mr. Haberman said.

In addition, beginning teachers in the programs should not be required to take more than one three-hour credit course per semester during their first year, the guidelines state.

"Our goal is not for them to get master's degrees in the beginning,'' Mr. Haberman said. "Our goal is to have them learn to teach."

Other Recommendations

Among its other recommendations, the group said that:

  • Alternative-certification candidates should be required to pass the same state basic-skills or subject-matter proficiency tests required of those who come into the profession through regular education programs.
  • Highly qualified teachers should be involved in the process of interviewing and selecting candidates for alternative certification.
  • The candidates selected should have recent, direct experience working with children--preferably at the same campus where they will begin teaching.
  • A policy board made up of teachers, teacher educators, administrators, school-board members, and candidates for alternative certification should oversee alternative-certification programs.
  • School districts should plan on hiring at least 10 percent more candidates than they expect to need.
  • Schools of education should be consulted on the content of the training courses provided to alternative-certification candidates.
  • A panel of master teachers using openly stated criteria should recommend permanent certification for teachers who come into the profession by alternative routes.

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