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Teaching Board Wins $3-Million Grant To Publicize Its Work

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In a major boost to its efforts to communicate with the nation's teachers, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has received a $3-million grant to publicize its work, the board announced last week.

The two-year grant from the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund will enable the board to expand significantly the number of state and regional forums held to inform members of the education community about the national board's mission.

James B. Hunt Jr., chairman of the national board, said he was "almost delirious" about the new grant. "It is essential that we expand greatly our communications efforts," the former North Carolina Governor said.

At the board's last national forum, held in July, participants urged the panel to reach out to teachers, school boards, teachers' colleges, state education departments, and parents in order to gain broad-based support for its plans to offer national certification for teachers. (See Education Week, Aug. 1, 1990.)

As part of its strategy to acquaint teachers with its work, the board set up exhibits at the conventions of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers this summer.

Teachers stopping by the booths were asked to fill out question4naires. The teachers' responses indicated they approved of the concept of national certification, giving board members their first solid evidence of teacher support for the board's initiatives, according to Claire L. Pelton, the panel's vice chairman.

"I've said teachers are ready for this, but we didn't have any hard data to support this," said Ms. Pelton, a teacher from San Jose, Calif. "We believe increasing the [teachers'] knowledge of the board will bring an increasing number of candidates."

Results of the nonscientific survey reflected widespread interest in becoming board-certified. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents said they were very interested in certification, while only 6.6 percent expressed no interest.

Nearly 70 percent cited professional recognition as the key incentive to board certification. The potential to earn higher salaries8ranked second.

Invigorated by the survey results and the fresh funding, the board has planned a variety of additional outreach activities. More exhibits will be set up at education-group conventions, print and video materials will be distributed, an advertising campaign will be waged, and forums will be held across the country.

Board officials have scheduled 36 state and regional forums, beginning next week in Nashville and concluding with a session in Phoenix in December 1991. (See box, this page.)

The board also plans to begin focus-group interviews this week, drawing teachers from the rural, suburban, and urban environs in the Detroit area. Such sessions, seen as an additional way of gauging teachers' reactions to the board's plans, will follow in Nashville, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.

With the DeWitt Wallace donation, the board has raised $12 million from private and corporate sources, excluding $5 million in seed money from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Major benefactors include the American Telephone and Telegraph, Xerox, International Business Machines, Du Pont, Ford, and Chrysler corporations, according to James A. Kelly, president of the board.

A bill is pending in the Congress to provide half of the $50 million the board says it needs for research and development until fee generation makes the certification body self-sustaining.

Based on the success of fund-raising efforts so far, Mr. Kelly said board operations will become a reality with or without the federal funding.

"The program is going to happen," Mr. Kelly said. "We will do it as fast as possible." He said he anticipated phasing in certification beginning in late 1993.

Mr. Hunt, however, added that federal funding would be vital to the board's operations. Without the cooperation of the Congress, he said, ''it will be a much longer process. The success is not nearly as guaranteed."

If, as a result of delays in funding, there is a lag time between offering credentials to teachers of varying specialties, added Ms. Pelton, "that could really create a morale problem among the professions."

Board officials expect to award the initial contracts for the development of assessments this fall. At present, the board is reviewing bids on two proposals--one in English-language arts geared toward early adolescence and the other in mathematics for adolescents.

Bids in another 6 to 14 areas will be let next year, depending on the board's financial situation, Mr. Kelly said.

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