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Teacher-Certification Plan For Social Studies Readied

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In an effort to provide greater professional recognition in its field, the National Council for the Social Studies is planning to offer national certification credentials to highly qualified teachers.

The council's board of directors last week agreed to continue developing the plan, which is expected to go into effect next year.

"A lot of teachers are great in the classroom, but they get no recognition," said Linda Biemer, dean of the school of education at the State University of New York at Binghamton and chairman of the NCSS task force on professional certification. "Certification by their profession is something they can aspire to."

The project is similar to one launched in 1987 by the National Science Teachers Association. It also is being undertaken as the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards moves toward offering certification to teachers in all subjects.

Ms. Biemer said her group supports the national board's efforts, and noted that a member of her task force is also on the board.

But she said the NCSS credential might have particular appeal for social-studies teachers because it represents recognition by colleagues in that field.

Moreover, she said, the social-studies group expects to offer its certification in 1991, two years before the national board.

"It may be that by 1993, the national board will pick up and use the standards we developed" in issuing its own credentials, Ms. Biemer said.

'Models of Active Citizens'

The NCSS certification effort began in 1986, following the release of reports on teaching by the Holmes Group and the Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession.

Like those panels, the council agreed that the teaching profession should establish high standards for entry and continuation in the field, according to Frances Haley, the council's executive director.

In addition, said Ms. Biemer, the council's efforts were aimed at offering guidance to school districts developing new career paths for teachers.

"It may be that only NCSS-certified teachers would be in charge of curriculum development for a district, or would work with student-teachers," she suggested.

Ms. Biemer said the task force is expected to meet later this winter to determine the standards that will be used in awarding certification.

Under current plans, the council would offer certification at the following levels: early childhood; elementary school; departmentalized elementary, middle, and junior high school; and secondary school.

To be eligible, teachers would have to be classroom instructors with at least seven years' experience who have demonstrated advanced preparation in the social studies and content-specific pedagogical knowledge.

Teachers would also be required to have a master's degree or the equivalent, Ms. Biemer noted.

"Teaching is a life-long learning process," she said. "Good teachers are always taking more coursework. We want to see evidence that teachers continue to prepare themselves in their field."

In addition, the NCSS would evaluate teachers' abilities by observing videotapes of their classroom performance and by reading evaluations by administrators.

Teachers would also have to show evidence of community involvement.

"Social-studies teachers in particular have an obligation to their community," Ms. Biemer said. "They are models of active citizens."

The council would also evaluate teachers' skills on the basis of student achievement.

"We can look at a videotape and lesson plans, and read letters of recommendation, but the bottom line is, 'Are children learning?"' Ms. Biemer said. "Teachers have to provide some indication to us that children at the end of the year have more knowledge and skills than they started with."

She acknowledged, however, that her task force had not yet determined how to measure improvements in student learning.

Science Program

If the NCSS project goes into effect, it will be the third such effort by a subject-matter organization.

Last fall, the Music Educators National Conference invited qualified teachers in that field to apply for a new credential.

And since 1987, the science teachers' association has awarded 275 certificates to 242 teachers, slightly fewer than the group had anticipated.

Citing anecdotal evidence, Gerald Skoog, a former president of the science group, said its program has succeeded in providing additional opportunities for certified teachers.

"In individual cases, good things happened" to teachers to advance their careers after they earned the optional certification, said Mr. Skoog, a professor of education at Texas Tech University.

Perhaps the greatest benefit to teachers, he said, has been their "professional satisfaction in meeting standards set by their colleagues."

"Some individuals we turned down have done additional work to be qualified," he added.

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