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N.E.A. Launches Teacher-Training Initiative in Three States

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The National Education Association has selected projects in Kentucky, Maine, and Tennessee to launch an initiative designed to upgrade the preparation of teachers and raise the union's profile on that issue.

"The immediate challenge is to shake up the teacher-preparation status quo," Keith B. Geiger, president of the n.e.a., said last week in announcing the projects.

"That's why the common element in these initiatives is that they break down the barriers between practitioner/teacher and educator/researcher," said the union leader, who made the announcement in Atlanta at the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

In Maine and Tennessee, clinical partnerships between schools and higher-education institutions will join the initiative; in Kentucky, the project selected is a ground-floor collaboration among colleges, state officials, and the teachers' union to influ4ence state policy on alternative licensure.

The nea Teacher Education Initiative, introduced last July at the union's annual convention, is another piece of the organization's efforts to participate in school reform. Unlike the other components, which have focused on individual schools or districts, this is the first joint project between higher education and elementary and secondary schools.

"I'm not going to tell you teacher preparation is a high-profile issue in this organization," said Sharon Robinson, director of the n.e.a.'s National Center for Innovation, who paused before adding, "yet."

Once union leaders can convince the public and policymakers, as well as their own membership, that well-trained teachers are entering the profession, they believe the union's position will be strengthened and pupils' education will be improved.

As an n.e.a. Teacher Education Initiative, each project will receive a8$5,000 grant, a link to the union's growing computer network, and staff support from the national union.

According to union officials, the initiative will bring the issue of teacher education onto the computer network. Ms. Robinson said the union hopes the initiative will add to the research data base on the effectiveness of teacher-preparation programs and practice.

Furthermore, she said, "it's likely that with this initiative, we will bring state policymakers into the discussion."

The projects selected "start at very different places," Ms. Robinson said. "Maine is among the most mature of all the efforts I know of." The Kentucky project, she added, "is the least developed conceptually in terms of concrete things."

In Maine, the University of Southern Maine's Extended Teacher Education Program will operate professional-development schools in conjunction with three districts--Wells-Ogunquit, Gorham, and Portland.

The program has been under development at the university and the schools for six years.

After students enrolled at the university receive their bachelor's degrees from the liberal-arts college, they will take part in a fifth-year internship program to receive a teaching certificate.

The teacher candidates will take their coursework at the schools, where they will receive instruction from classroom teachers as well as college faculty members. The clinical internship will last a full year.

"It will be nice to connect to other universities and districts in other states," said Lynne Miller, associate professor and director of teacher education for the university. "That is a real benefit for us."

The Tennessee initiative also entails strengthening the clinical component of teacher preparation.

The Tennessee Education Association will work in collaboration with Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Memphis State8University. Their task is to work with classroom teachers to design and implement a mentor-training program.

The Kentucky teacher-education initiative, which involves a coalition of educational institutions in the state, represents a riskier proposition for the union.

As part of the state's far-reaching education-reform package, the legislature created a professional-standards board for teachers. Among its responsibilities is the establishment of an alternative-licensing program.

The n.e.a. coalition's initial task will be to recommend to the board a set of criteria for such licensing.

"The secondary goal is creating an avenue to thrash out our differences prior to the implementation," said David Allen, president of the Kentucky Education Association.

The coalition is made up of the k.e.a., the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville, Murray State University, Berea College, Kentucky State University, the state department of education, and the superintendent of the Franklin County schools.

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