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State Boards Urged To Focus on 'Retooling' Teaching Force

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State boards of education should focus their attention on "retooling" the teaching force to encourage teachers to become "masters of their profession," a report released last week by the National Association of State Boards of Education urges.

Many current state policies are at odds with the true complexity of teaching, the report asserts, because they are overly prescriptive and do not recognize the many skills teachers must possess to be considered competent.

It recommends that state policymakers address the areas of teacher preparation, licensure and certification, professional development and pay systems, and recruitment of members of minority groups.

In general, the report recommends that policies regulating teacher training be based on the desired outcomes of the programs, rather than a specific list of course requirements. Those outcomes should be related to the state's expectations for its schools, the document maintains.

One way of moving toward such an "outcome based" system would be to evaluate the quality of new teachers through an assessment given before graduation, the report notes. It says the new version of the National Teacher Examinations being developed by the Educational Testing Service could be used. (See Education Week, Sept. 12, 1990.)

"When appropriate," the report4states, "state boards should be prepared to deny approval--and funding--to programs that consistently graduate an unacceptable number of inadequately prepared teachers."

State boards also should encourage education schools to develop courses and approaches that meet the needs of today's students and teachers, the report says. It calls on education schools to promote "multicultural awareness," diversified teaching practices, and the institutional and organizational analysis necessary for new teachers to participate in school-based management.

It also recommends rewarding and promoting teacher-education programs that produce well-qualified candidates and requiring more exposure to classroom situations for professors who train teachers, for example in clinical-practice schools.

'Tiered' Licensure Systems

In the area of licensure and certification, the report calls for states to develop "tiered" licensure systems to differentiate between initial and advanced certification.

Initial licensure would depend primarily on a candidate's academic proficiency, the report says, while advanced certification would depend on demonstrated proficiency in the classroom.

The report is relatively cool to the notion of having such standards determined by independent professional-practice boards, which some educators and the National Education Association have argued are the key to establishing a true professional framework for teaching in the states. Such boards, the report says, "might work against other state efforts to create flexibility in the system."

It recommends, however, that state education boards appoint advisory committees to make recommendations on licensure and certification and develop assessments that evaluate teachers' classroom performance. The standards set for licensure must always be coordinated with the state's expectations for its students, the document indicates.

In addition, the report advises state boards to "explore and promote" alternative routes to licensure for promising candidates who want to enter teaching from other fields. But such programs must include a period of supervised student teaching, the report maintains, adding that such a component is required in only 13 of the 29 states it considers to have alternative programs.

Inservice Programs Faulted

The report is particularly critical of the current state of professional deel15lvelopment for teachers, arguing that many state departments operate with a "round 'em up and train 'em" approach to inservice programs. It adds that some states also have heavily invested in a packaged method of staff development without determining whether the approach is based upon reliable research.

The report calls on state boards to develop ways to differentiate teachers' work and pay them accordingly. Incentives should be given to school districts to assign the best teachers to work with the students who are most likely to fail in school, it says.

To accomplish that goal, clinical-practice schools could be set up in schools serving at-risk youths, the report suggests. Such schools would be staffed by "master teachers" and university professors.

The study also endorses the concept of rewarding teachers monetarily for working with the most challenging students.

State boards also should "continue to experiment" with differentiated-pay systems that compensate teachers for doing different types of work, rather than for superior performance evaluations, the report recommends.

At the same time, boards also are urged to discourage the use of check-list evaluations and encourage the use of multiple evaluation techniques for each teacher.

But the report calls for making a clear distinction between evaluating a teacher for employment purposes and for professional development. A principal frequently does not have time to conduct evaluations that would focus on both objectives, the report indicates. Although teachers have been resistant to peer-evaluation programs that would determine eligibility for employment, it notes, they have been receptive to working with their colleagues to encourage professional growth.

Urban Recommendations

Finally, the report calls on state boards to evaluate their policies and practices to determine their effects on teachers who are members of minority groups. It also recommends providing incentives for two-year and four-year institutions of higher education to better coordinate their programs, which it says would enhance minority recruitment.

In another report released last week at nasbe's annual conference, the association makes a series of recommendations concerning urban education. It urges state boards to "act upon the belief that all children can learn" by setting policies that encourage school districts to eliminate academic tracking and to offer all students a challenging sequence of coursework.

State boards also should hold schools accountable for forging "working partnerships" with students' families and their communities, the report recommends, and should aggressively encourage adequate financing of urban schools.

Copies of both reports are available for $6.50 each, prepaid, from nasbe Publications, 1012 Cameron St., Alexandria, Va. 22314. Discounts are available for orders of 25 or more copies.

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