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The El Paso school district is the first in the nation to hire an educator from the U.S. Defense Department's new teacher-recruitment program.

"Troops to Teachers'' helps discharged military personnel become teachers at public schools in low-income areas.

School officials in El Paso hired the first of the program's recruits as a bilingual teacher at an elementary school in June.

The district is using the program to find "qualified, disciplined individuals in areas where we really need teachers, such as bilingual education,'' Superintendent Estanislado Paz of the El Paso schools said.

The recruitment effort has expanded into California, another state that has many districts grappling with teacher shortages.

In addition to providing teachers to districts that need them, the program aims to ease the transition for defense workers moving into the civilian workforce as the military downsizes. The federal government will subsidize the salaries in exchange for at least five years of service and will provide a stipend to pay for alternative certification before it places its recruits.

Teachers in Maryland will be subject to tougher teacher-licensing procedures under a new plan approved by the state board of education.

The board voted last month to require teachers to pass new performance standards every five years. Beginning next year, teachers must have satisfactory evaluations at least three out of five years, complete more coursework in their fields, and design their own professional-development plans.

The changes are a radical departure from the state's previous policy, which required teachers renewing an advanced certificate to pay a $10 fee every 10 years.

Maryland education officials have said the new restrictions--passed after four years of debate and despite opposition from the teachers' union--are expected to send the message that the state is serious about evaluating teachers based on continued improvement.

In addition to adopting the licensing changes, the board has proposed requiring teachers to have five years of college training instead of four.

The undergraduate teaching degree would be eliminated under the proposal and replaced with four years of liberal-arts coursework, plus one year of education studies and student teaching.

The proposal, which is expected to be debated in public hearings this summer, must be approved by state higher-education officials and funded by the legislature.

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