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Guidelines on Alternate-Route Administrators Released

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Lynn Olson

Candidates for alternate routes into school administration should meet criteria that are "substantially equivalent" to regular licensing requirements, according to a policy statement released last week by the National Policy Board for Educational Administration.

To date, only New Jersey has adopted a procedure for allowing nontraditional recruits into positions of school leadership. But the new document is intended to provide guidance to other states that might be considering such action.

In general, the report asserts, the "most promising" source of new educational leaders is the 2.5 million experienced schoolteachers now in the classrooms.

But it concedes that there may be "uniquely qualified persons who have earned the opportunity to practice school administration outside the regular route to professional credentials."

These individuals, however, must have training and experience "substantially equivalent" to that of regular candidates and complete a credentialing process that ensures the public that only well-qualified persons administer the schools, the report stresses.

The report, "Alternative Certification for School Leaders," was produced by a task force chaired by Gordon M. Ambach, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

It outlines a process that states could use to certify nontraditional recruits, along with six guidelines for ensuring that such candidates are adequately prepared for their jobs.

In particular, it warns, "[t]he process must assure citizens that the usual standards for admission to practice are maintained, that criteria are not compromised, and that expediency does not erode quality."

"While persons exceptionally qualified should not be denied the opportunity to become credentialed," it argues, "neither should persons of ordinary talent and background expect to be successful applicants.''

The board suggests that each state appoint a panel of school administrators, professors of school adration, senior state officials, other educators of "experience and reputation," and laymen to oversee the licensure process for alternate-route candidates.

These candidates would be required to follow explicit application procedures, including the presentation of a written application, a deion of the "exceptional qualifications" that he or she wishes to be considered, official college transcripts, documentation of other educational and leadership experience, and a professional resume.

Specific criteria for approval should be set by each state in relation to its regular licensure requirements, the report notes.

But it offers six, general guidethat candidates should meet:

Teaching and learning: A demonstrated understanding of effective learning and instructional processes.

Leadership experience: A level of responsibility comparable to the position for which credentialing is sought and a record of successful and effective administrative behavior.

Education: An undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution and broad formal preparation at the post-baccalaureate level.

Personal attributes: Proven ability in the area of human relations and decisionmaking, confirmation of adequate oral and written skills, and recognition ofultural sensibilities.

Social context: An understanding of the role of education in a democratic society; familiarity with current social and economic issues related to education; recognition of governmental and legal influences on schooling; and a perspective on the ways schools serve the larger society.

Institutional context: An understanding of the procedures and processes by which school districts and schools develop policies and deliver programs to students, including the role of lay governance and participation in schools, familiarity with the organizational culture and operation of schools, and an awareness of alternate structures.

In addition, the document suggests, states that require additional criteria of traditional candidates--such as experience in classroom teaching--should consider requiring some demonstrated instructional competence from candidates for alternate certification.

Copies of "Alternative Certification for School Leaders" may be ordered from the National Policy Board for Educational Administration, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax, Va. 22030-4444. Telephone: (703) 764-6516.

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