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S.R.E.B. Proposes Reciprocal Teacher Certification

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Most Southern states evaluate teacher performance similarly enough that policymakers should consider granting reciprocity for certification and teacher assessment, a preliminary report on state programs in the region concludes.

Through interstate cooperation, "improved systems can be developed faster, more wisely, and at a more modest cost, with confidence that the teacher's performance is being fairly and accurately described," says the report released last month by the Southern Regional Education Board.

Directed by Russell L. French, a professor of education at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, the study also urges greater involvement of higher-education institutions to assist in linking teacher evaluation, teacher education, recertification, and professional development.

Although the study was exploratory in nature, Mr. French said, the findings are clear enough to provide a basis for reciprocity agreements.

At one time, Mr. French noted, some states had informal reciprocity arrangements. But they have been severed in recent years as lawmakers mandated more accountability in education.

Mr. French cited the example of a teacher with eight years' experience who moved from North Carolina to Tennessee. Although the teacher might easily be qualified to begin at step two of the latter state's career ladder, under current rules he or she would have to go through various stages of evaluation before being placed appropriately.

Mr. French also pointed out that laws designed to ensure teacher competency may have inadvertently creroblems elsewhere, such as by hindering minority recruitment. That "won't be solved on a state-by-state basis," he said.

The research team conducted the two-part study first by comparing evaluation materials provided by the states. For the second part, observers from each state were asked to evaluate videotapes of classroom teaching. Researchers then analyzed the observers' decisions to see if there were common threads.

Texas and Virginia participated in only the first part, while Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virgina participated throughout.

The report praised a number of teacher-evaluation practices. Researchers found, for example, thatms drew on the latest effective-teaching research, although emerging research tended to be ignored.

They also lauded the states for efforts to aid novice teachers by providing mentors or coaches.

But the researchers also noted shortcomings. Programs often overlooked assessing content knowledge, they said, and failed to distinguish between good and superior teaching.

Moreover, only a handful of states--Oklahoma and Tennessee, and to a lesser degree, Alabama, Arkansas, and West Virgina--attempted to link teacher evaluation with changes in student performance.

And even Tennessee's program in that area, Mr. French argued, "is not what it needs to be or should be."

Mr. French added, however, that the South is not alone in failing to assess the relationship between student and teacher performance.

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