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National Board To Continue Debating Eligibility Rules for Teacher Certification

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By Ann Bradley

Members of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards have agreed to continue to discuss the question of who will be eligible to sit for national teacher certification--an issue that has proved to be the most controversial of the board's decisions to date.

Board members attending a meeting earlier this month in Coral Gables, Fla., referred the matter to two of the national board's working groups for further study.

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the National Education Association, and the Association of Teacher Educators have opposed the national board's decision to allow candidates with a bachelor's degree and three years of successful teaching experience in primary and secondary schools to undergo the assessment process. (See Education Week, March 7, 1990.)

While expressing overall support for a national system of recognizing superior teachers, all three groups have recommended that eligibility for board certification be tied to graduation from an accredited teacher-preparation program and possession of a state teaching license.

The board prerequisites have been criticized as a rejection of teaching's existing quality-control mechanisms in favor of an untested, performance-based system of assessments.

Several educators also have expressed concern that teaching not be seen as setting less rigorous standards than other professions.

'Needs Further Discussion'

In December, the n.e.a.'s board of directors passed a motion directing its members on the national board to lobby for the prerequisite policy to be revised.

Although nea members on the national board did not press for the change at the meeting in Florida, Keith B. Geiger, president of the union, said last week that he was pleased the issue was not closed.

Several observers noted that the teachers' union would not have been able to garner enough support for the change among board members.

"We just believe that it needs further discussion," Mr. Geiger said of eligibility for board certification. "We don't have any mindset as to what may happen at the end of the further discussion. The key is that there isn't a big hurry to do anything until we're starting to issue certificates."

Mr. Geiger said a report now being prepared by the board staff on requirements for advanced certification in other professions would help inform the debate over prerequisites.

Reg Weaver, a member of both the n.e.a.'s executive committee and the national board, said he pointed out to board members during their hourlong discussion that "teachers who have invested a substantial amount of time, energy, and money in the present preparation and licensing process may have felt challenged" by the prerequisites.

Both Mr. Geiger and Mr. Weaver stressed the importance of board members receiving "feedback" on the comments made at the national board's national and regional forums. Such information must be provided to board members, Mr. Weaver said, if the integrity of the board's decisionmaking process is to be maintained.

Board Policy Statement

In its initial policy statement released last July, the board noted that requiring candidates to have graduated from an accredited teacher-preparation program or to have a state license would exclude private- school and postsecondary teachers.

In addition, the document stated, requiring graduation from an accredited program would put the board in the position of judging whether to accept graduates of state-approved programs or those accredited by a professional body.

James A. Kelly, president of the 64-member board, said the decision also turned on the fact that standards in teacher education and state licensure are in a state of flux. At some point, he suggested, "sensible interconnections" may emerge between any new standards and national certification.

Current accreditation standards "really don't acknowledge the kinds of changes that are going to have to come about" in universities to prepare teachers for national certification, said Shirley A. Hill, a board member who is a professor of education and mathematics at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.

"It's a time to be more permissive and inclusive than to close things off," she said.

Claire L. Pelton, vice chairman of the national board, noted that the board is likely to return to the question of prerequisites after it goes through the lengthy and informative process of setting the standards for its assessments.

"Only after we have approved those standards and assessments can we take another look at the state of national certification and see whether there should be any modifications in the prerequisite policy," she said.

In other action, the national board named Mary Mercer Krogness, an English-language-arts teacher at Shaker Heights Middle School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, as chairman of the committee that will set the standards for the board's early-adolescence/English-language-arts assessment. Gail Burrill, a mathematics teacher at Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis., was named to chair the committee on standards for teaching mathematics to adolescents and young adults.

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