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TEACH! Seeks Certificates for Corps in Underserved Districts

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The professional-development arm of Teach for America is pursuing contracts with several school systems that would give the group broad authority to recruit, select, and train local cadres of teachers.

Under the new TEACH! program, states with participating districts also would be asked to grant teaching certificates to candidates who pass two-year performance reviews but who do not necessarily hold degrees in education.

"If states like what we're assessing, then that would be a recommendation for permanent, or initial, certification," depending on state requirements, said Richard Barth, the president of the TEACH! arm of the corps. Over the past six months, Mr. Barth has been developing the portfolio-based assessments the group plans to test this year as part of its new initiative.

TFA is the brainchild of Wendy Kopp, a 1989 Princeton University graduate who, in her senior thesis, proposed the creation of a national teacher corps to serve urban and rural school districts. (See Education Week, Jan. 17, 1990, and July 31, 1991.)

The corps has been controversial in many education circles ever since it was created with foundation and corporate donations shortly after Ms. Kopp graduated.

The debate has centered on TFA's practice of tapping graduates of selective four-year colleges and universities who generally do not have education degrees. The recruits--who agree to teach at least two years in underserved districts--apply for emergency or alternative state licenses allowing them to teach while they take education courses.

The new TEACH! project aims to test Ms. Kopp's theory that teachers learn through experience and ongoing professional development.

This year's 550-member class of recruits will be the first to complete the updated "professional residency" plan under TEACH! The program is made up of TFA's summer institute, induction, and ongoing professional development.

TFA, which modeled its performance-based teaching standards after standards developed by the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, is also closely following the assessments being piloted this year by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The board has designed a voluntary national system to certify expert teachers.

Financial Support

TFA's new program has received grants totaling $250,000 from the Sega Youth Education and Health Foundation Charitable Trust, the Challenge Foundation, and the Rockwell International Corporation Trust, among others. Several other large foundations are also prepared to put substantial money behind the project, according to one education official who has charted TFA's progress.

TEACH! has signed on several influential educators to its board, including Al Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, and John Anderson, the president of the New American Schools Development Corporation.

But opposition to the group's plan may be forming among teacher-educators.

The executive board of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, for example, passed a resolution last fall asking states to "enforce rigorous licensing standards for those who attain the title of teacher." The measure was in part a reaction to TFA's new proposals, said Donna Golnick, the vice president of NCATE, an outspoken critic of the corps' training programs.

But TEACH! has sealed its first agreement under the new initiative, with a university taking a leading role in the arrangement.

The North Carolina state board of education last fall approved a three-year pilot program involving East Carolina University in Greenville and the state's TFA corps.

Under the agreement--now under way--the university will recommend new corps members to the state for certification after their second year of teaching, said Parmelee Hawk, the director of teacher education at ECU.

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