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Teaching-Standards Board Unveils Test Plans, Sites

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LAS VEGAS, NEV.--The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has formed a network of school districts and universities in 19 states that will field test both its assessments and the operation of its certification system.

The board announced the new contracts with 15 school districts and 12 consortia of districts and higher-education institutions at its annual forum here in June.

The 112 urban, suburban, and rural sites--ranging from New York City to Fairbanks, Alaska--serve more than 2.2 million students. The network employs a total of 165,000 teachers, 25 percent of whom are members of minority groups.

Over the two-year contract period, participants in the field-test network will perform a variety of tasks for the national board.

During the 1992-93 school year, they will review and evaluate the standards on which the national board's assessment system will be based and create appropriate professional-development programs to help teachers prepare to become board certified.

The participants in the network will also recruit teachers for the second stage of their work: field testing both the national board's plans for operating its certification system and testing the components of its assessment packages that are prepared by other board contractors.

In 1993-94, 2,000 teachers recruited by members of the network will undergo the assessment process for certification as accomplished teachers of English-language arts to children in early adolescence and as generalists working with early adolescents.

The exercises for these certificates already have been field tested by the laboratories that are developing them.

New Partners

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James R. Smith, the board's senior vice president for standards and assessments, said the question to be answered during the test of the operating system is, "Can we make this work?''

For other certification fields, the teachers will evaluate the many exercises developed for the assessments and provide the board with reports as its work goes along.

The field-test-network participants are expected to be active partners in the development of the board's certification system. They will assist the N.B.P.T.S. in thinking about what kinds of incentives and support will be needed to encourage teachers to seek certification, help communicate its mission, disseminate its publications, and attend its meetings and annual forums.

All of the sites will be linked to one another and to the national board's offices by an electronic bulletin board.

The field-test network will cost $7.1 million: $2.6 million for the contract awards, $1 million for the $500 honoraria to be paid to the teachers involved in the field tests of the assessment packages, $2.1 million in costs borne by the N.B.P.T.S., and $1.4 million in in-kind contributions from the network sites.

The money that the board will spend on the network will come from private donations and $3.6 million in federal matching funds, board officials said.

Mary-Dean Barringer, the director of the network, said teachers who take the English-language-arts and generalist assessments for working with young adolescents will be eligible for certification if they do well.

The teachers who test the exercises for other certification fields will be eligible for certification only if they take and pass all of the components that are chosen to assess teachers in a particular discipline, she added.

Because the goal is to "test out every exercise'' being developed by the national board's laboratories, she said, it is likely that participants in that phase of the board's work would undergo assessments that might eventually be discarded.

Debate Over Assessors

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Members of the 63-person board that governs the N.B.P.T.S. engaged in a spirited debate about who should judge the first candidates for certification, according to participants in the closed session.

Some board members favored allowing people who had been classroom teachers within the last three years to become assessors, while others pushed to make eligible only those who spend 51 percent or more of their time teaching.

Adam Urbanski, a board member and the president of the Rochester Teachers Association, said he argued forcefully that the credibility of the certification process depended upon having only classroom teachers do the assessing.

Mr. Urbanski's position prevailed by a one-vote margin. The topic was heated enough that both James A. Kelly, the board's president, and Claire Pelton, its vice chair, voted.

In other developments, the board announced the appointment of two new committees to set standards for certification. One committee will decide what teachers of mathematics working with children in middle childhood (ages 7-12) and early adolescence (ages 11-15) should know and be able to do, while the other will set standards for English-language-arts teachers who work with students in middle childhood and adolescence and young adulthood (ages 14-18+).

The appointment of committees with responsibility for more than one type of certificate was a departure from past practice for the national board, which had named separate committees for each age grouping and discipline.

The new approach "allows for strong relationships among standards for a particular discipline,'' according to the board.

Three-Year Grant Received

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The N.B.P.T.S. also announced that the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund has renewed its commitment to the organization with a three-year, $2.9-million grant for outreach programs to help the board communicate with classroom teachers.

The award follows a $3-million grant to the national board announced in September 1990.

The following urban public-school districts are members of the field-test network: Broward County, Fla.; Detroit; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; Cincinnati; Cleveland; the District of Columbia; Minneapolis; New Orleans; New York City; and San Diego.

The suburban districts are DeKalb County, Ga.; Jericho, N.Y.; and Waterford, Conn. The rural districts are Fairbanks, Alaska, and Vancouver, Wash.

The following universities have formed consortia with local urban, suburban, and rural districts to become part of the network: Appalachian State University, Boone, N.C.; Auburn University, Auburn, Ala.; Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Tenn.; California State University at Fresno; Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Conn.; East Texas State University, Commerce, Tex.; Emporia State University, Emporia, Kan.; State University College at Buffalo, Buffalo, N.Y.; the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa; and the University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Miss.

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