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Seven States Seek Regional Credential for Administrators

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A group of seven Northeastern states is moving toward adopting a regional credential for administrators that could blur the boundaries between those states' certification requirements.

The collaborative effort is designed to improve the quality of administrator preparation in the Northeast and enhance mobility for educators seeking jobs in participating states.

The project, which is now focused on developing performance-based assessments for the credential, apparently is the first of its kind for administrators.

It is modeled after a teaching credential that was established in 1989 by many of the same states involved in the current effort and the Regional Laboratory for Educational Improvement of the Northeast and Islands, a nonprofit organization in Andover, Mass. (See Education Week, Aug. 2, 1989.)

The two credentials form the basis for a "Northeast Common Market'' for educators, which is designed to alleviate shortages of teachers and administrators as well as increase job opportunities, said Anne Newton, the program coordinator for the common-market project.

Some observers have suggested that the regional program--funded in part by the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund--could improve the quality of candidates entering the field.

Ticket to Practice

The state commissioners of education began collaborating on common requirements for administrators in the Northeast in 1990, shortly after they launched the credential program for teachers, Ms. Newton said.

Since that time, state-certification officials and other groups that prepare and employ administrators have identified the knowledge and the skills that are the foundation for the common credential.

The states and the laboratory also contracted with National Evaluation Systems Inc. of Amherst, Mass., to write the assessment system for the two-tiered credential, which operates like a license or certificate.

The initial credential allows administrators to practice in any participating state in the region for up to three years; the advanced credential is valid for five years.

Unlike the teaching credential, however, which requires that teachers eventually meet licensing requirements in the state in which they choose to practice, administrators have the option of working continuously under the regional credential, Ms. Newton pointed out.

The program, which covers both building- and district-level administrators, is set to be adopted in all of the participating Northeastern states except New York by fall 1996.

The New York education department is expected to make the regional credential a requirement for state certification and is giving universities and colleges until fall 1997 to adjust their preparation programs, said Charles C. Mackey, the department's administrator for teacher-certification policy.

"We consider these new requirements to be very high and demanding,'' he said. "They have greater validity'' than the state's current certification guidelines for administrators.

In all of the other participating states--Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont--educational leaders will still be able to apply for either the regional credential or the state certificate.

'Parallel Lines'

In addition to working toward a common licensing system, state leaders have met with practitioners and representatives from higher education, business, and state legislatures to come up with a professional-development plan for administrators in the Northeast.

A "mentoring network'' for administrators and a training institute for new superintendents are also in the pipeline, Ms. Newton said.

Leaders in the field of educational administration have urged such cooperation over the past few years.

The National Policy Board for Educational Administration, for example, gathered together state education officials in January to discuss common standards and licensing for administrators. (See Education Week, Jan. 26, 1994.)

And a 1993 report by the National Association of Secondary School Principals argued that state education departments are "logical catalysts'' in building a consensus on standards and programs for principals. (See Education Week, Jan. 13, 1993.)

The report made clear that states "can't afford all these parallel lines anymore'' in training and preparing school leaders, said James W. Keefe, the director of research for the N.A.S.S.P.and the study's principal author.

"The Northeastern consortium has taken those recommendations quite seriously,'' he added. "I think we're going to see a lot more collaboration like this.''

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