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National Board Revises Prerequisites for Certification of Teachers

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In a change to one of its most controversial policies, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has decided that candidates for national certification must hold valid state teaching licenses.

Under the board's previous guidelines, any candidate with a bachelor's degree and three years of successful teaching experience would have been permitted to undergo the assessment process.

In other action this month, the board also approved its first set of assessments for field-testing in the fall.

As well as requiring state licensure, the revised policy on prerequisites for certification states that candidates must have completed "three full-time-equivalent'' years of teaching before applying. The previous guidelines, in contrast, would have allowed teachers to apply for board certification before they had finished teaching for three years.

The board's initial policy on the prerequisites had drawn criticism from the National Education Association, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and other groups, which urged that the board make both state licensure and graduation from an accredited teacher education program requirements for undergoing the assessments. (See Education Week, Jan. 17, 1990.)

The board, a private organization governed by a 63-member board of directors, is developing a system of voluntary certification to recognize outstanding teachers.

Deferring to States

James A. Kelly, the president of the national board, said that by revising the policy on prerequisites, the board explicitly recognized states' role in licensing teachers.

"There should be minimum entry standards for the profession, and states set those in the form of licensing,'' he said. "We defer to states in that regard.''

Although the revised policy does not mention teacher education, Mr. Kelly noted that many states require that teacher candidates have graduated from either a state-approved or professionally accredited institution as a condition of licensure.

The new policy means that some teachers who work in private schools, if they do not hold licenses, will not be eligible for national certification. But Mr. Kelly pointed out that it is not uncommon for states to require private school teachers to be licensed.

David G. Imig, the executive director of AACTE, said his group was pleased with the policy.

"This represents progress toward a recognition of the close ties between professional preparation and board certification,'' he said.

Keith B. Geiger, the president of the N.E.A., said the change came about because Mr. Kelly had been trying to resolve the issue for three years, and not because of particular pressure from the union.

"We elected not to do that,'' he said.

Assessments To Be Revised

At their quarterly meeting this month, members of the board of directors of the teaching-standards board also gave the go-ahead to a package of assessments for teachers of English-language arts who work with early-adolescent students.

The exercises were developed by the University of Pittsburgh and the Connecticut education department.

The field-testing of the exercises, scheduled to begin this fall with 1,000 to 2,000 teachers, will try out both the assessments themselves and the system for administering them.

The board expects to award a contract shortly for operating the field-test system, Mr. Kelly said.

The board also was asked to approve for field-testing a set of exercises for teachers who are generalists working with early adolescents. However, the board found "serious flaws'' with the portion of the exercises to be administered at an assessment center.

In a statement, Mr. Kelly said the package "was deemed unacceptable because it fails to reflect the board's vision of accomplished teaching and the board's understanding of how its vision must be incorporated in performance assessments.''

Instead, the board of directors asked the developers of the package--researchers at the University of Georgia's performance-assessment laboratory--to revise that part of their work and resubmit it at the national board's June meeting.

William Capie, the principal investigator on the project, did not return calls for comment last week.

Members of the board of directors and national-board staff members said the assessment-center exercises were not deep or complex enough.

"My concern was that it solidifies what is, rather than pointing to what we would like teaching to be,'' said Adam Urbanski, the president of the Rochester (N.Y.) Teachers Association and a member of the board.

In sending the assessments back for revision, Mr. Urbanski said, the 63-member board sent a strong signal of independence from its staff.

"This means the staff is not in charge,'' he said.

Field-Test of Standards

James R. Smith, the senior vice president of the national board, noted that the University of Georgia had half a year less to do its work than the Pittsburgh-Connecticut laboratory. The committee that developed the standards for use in the middle-school-generalist assessments, he added, also struggled because the certificate field is so broad. (See Education Week, June 3, 1992.)

Those problems now have been resolved. The board of directors approved field-testing this fall for both the middle-school-generalist standards and the standards for English-language-arts teachers working with early adolescents. Three other sets of standards were approved for circulation and comment.

The board of directors also made some changes to the framework of certificates it will offer, bringing the number of certificates to 33.

In addition, the directors formally authorized the launch of the certification system, in one or more fields, next year.

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