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Board Sets Field-Test of National Teaching Certificate

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INDIANAPOLIS--The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which has been primarily concerned with research and development since its founding in 1987, is now preparing to offer the first national certificates to highly accomplished teachers.

At a meeting here last month, the board of directors of the private organization approved a $2.1 million, 18-month contract with the San Antonio-based Psychological Corporation to handle the logistics involved in field-testing the first two assessments for the voluntary certification system.

About 2,000 teachers will participate in the field-tests in the fall. The assessments, aimed at teachers who work with early adolescents, are for "generalists'' and for teachers of English-language arts.

Each package of assessments contains two parts: a portfolio to be compiled at the teacher's own school and a set of exercises to be completed at an assessment center.

Teachers will begin assembling their portfolios in the fall, and will visit the assessment centers on March 5-6, 1994.

If the assessments are found to be valid, reliable, and fair, teachers who pass them will become the first board-certified teachers in the nation.

"There can be no lasting or systemic education reform without the active participation of teachers,'' James A. Kelly, the president of the national board, told the audience here at the board's fifth national forum.

"The national board and other teaching organizations must be at the center of the nation's education reform agenda,'' he asserted, "not on the periphery.''

Portfolios Approved

The assessment package for English-language-arts teachers, developed by the University of Pittsburgh and the Connecticut education department, was approved by the board of directors in March. But, at the same time, the directors asked the University of Georgia's performance-assessment laboratory to continue working on the generalist certificate. (See Education Week, March 31, 1993.)

At its meeting last month, the board of directors approved the portfolio portion of the generalist assessment for field-testing. Now, the developers will turn their attention to ironing out concerns over the assessment-center exercises, which will be presented to the board in October.

Because teachers will not have to undergo the assessment-center exercises until next March, Mr. Kelly said, the schedule should allow for the full package to be field-tested next year.

The University of Georgia laboratory also was the successful bidder on a proposal to develop a number of other assessments in a variety of certificate fields, but was never formally awarded that contract because of the concerns over its initial work.

Instead, the board of directors last month approved issuing a new request for proposals for the creation of "assessment-development laboratories'' to develop the assessments for 14 certificates. The University of Georgia will still be eligible to do some of the work.

"It became apparent to us that relying on one contractor to do all the work was a perilous strategy,'' said James R. Smith, the senior vice president of the national board. "We were just too vulnerable to any kinds of delays or problems.''

Contractors are being encouraged to bid on developing clusters of assessments, such as all of the science, mathematics, or history examinations the board plans to offer.

The organization also is asking for "fast-track'' proposals for two certificates that are closely related to those scheduled to be tested in the fall. All of the certificates are expected to be available by 1997-98.

In addition, 14 committees are developing high and rigorous standards for what teachers should know and be able to do in 16 certificate fields. Six sets of standards are now circulating for public comment.

Not End in Itself

The board of directors last month also established new policies clarifying how national certification should be used and what circumstances will trigger denial or revocation of certificates.

People who misrepresent or falsify any information, or who have been convicted of a felony or have had their teaching licenses denied, suspended, or revoked because of child abuse, job-related crimes, or violent crimes against people will not be allowed to become or remain certified.

The directors also issued a four-page statement clarifying how national teacher certification should and should not be used.

The statement says, for example, that the national board will oppose any national, state, or local effort to make such certification mandatory.

National certification, it says, should not be viewed as an end in itself, but "as a means for enhancing opportunities for teachers to continue to hone their professional skills.''

And the rewards and incentives that states or districts attach to national certification, it asserts, must be appropriate and adequate.

At its forum next year, the standards board plans to release a policy paper explaining how national certification can fit into the entire course of a teacher's career.

The organization has made a number of staff changes to support the new phase of its work.

Joan Baratz-Snowden, who had been in charge of assessment development, will now take charge of the education-policy and -reform agenda. Mr. Smith will handle assessment development for the immediate future.

The board also expects to step up its outreach efforts to form partnerships with states that are interested in developing policies to encourage and reward board-certified teachers.

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