Georgia Legislature Approves Bill Creating Independent
Standards Board for Teachers By Ann Bradley
The Georgia legislature has given final approval to a bill creating an autonomous Professional Standards Commission to regulate the training and licensure of teachers in the state.
Gov. Zell Miller, who championed the bill, is expected to sign the measure after the legislative session ends this month.
The 18-member body will replace the current 20-member standards board, which advises the state board of education and has no independent authority.
Mr. Miller, Superintendent of Schools Werner Rogers, and other supporters of the bill believe it will simplify the state's teacher-licensure procedure, which is now handled by the state education department, and make it easier to attract qualified teachers.
The Georgia Association of Educators, an affiliate of the National Education Association, views the bill as "moving toward the ability of the profession to be accountable for itself," said Debbie Simonds, president of the state teachers' union.
"We think it's wonderful," Ms. Simonds added.
Of the 18 members on the new commission, nine are to be classroom teachers.
Also on the panel will be two school administrators, two faculty4members from state or regionally approved teacher-education institutions, two members of local school boards, and three representatives of business or other private-sector groups. All members are to be appointed by the governor.
In addition to setting the standards for licensure in Georgia--including establishing in-service training requirements and alternative routes to licensure--the commission will be responsible for approving teacher-education programs.
The legislation also directs the board to develop "innovative programs" to increase the number of minority teachers, and to streamline the current licensing process by limiting the number and type of teaching licenses available.
Key Union Goal
The composition and duties of the new panel "absolutely" conform to the nea's concept of a "model" standards board, according to Sharon Robinson, director of the organization's National Center for Innovation.
Encouraging its state affiliates to lobby for the creation of autonomous, teacher-dominated boards has been a major legislative priority for the union for the past several years. (See Education Week, Sept. 13, 1989.)
Ms. Robinson noted, however, that while the association continues to promote the creation of independent standards boards, "We're less strident today in promoting a model."
"We're now anxious and supportive of state affiliates crafting their own responses to the unique situations they find in their states," she said.
The composition of the standards board has caused some concern among higher-education representatives, some of whom fear that the voice of teacher-training institutions will be muted with only two representatives on the commission.
Alphonse Buccino, dean of the college of education at the University of Georgia, said he believes the commission could help strengthen the teaching profession by giving teachers a leading role in setting standards.
But, he cautioned, "I don't believe you ought to think about strengthening any profession without a link to preparation programs. That appears to be a weak part of the bill."
"Hopefully, there is no gap between what preparers think is good practice and what the licensing body thinks is good practice," Mr. Buccino added.
Superintendent Rogers said the new commission is likely to bring about reforms in teacher certification much more quickly than did the state board of education, which dealt with the matter only on a part-time basis.
The new commission is to begin its work July 1.