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Experience in a multicultural setting is as important to bring in to a school of education as it is to take out, one Wisconsin education school has decided.

In January, the college of education at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater will begin requiring prospective students to show that they have experience working with students of different cultures, ethnic groups, or physical or mental ability.

The requirement will be weighed equally with two others: numerical criteria such as grade-point averages and scores on entrance tests, and time spent on volunteer work with children. Students will prepare portfolios for evaluation by the education faculty as part of the admission process, a step that usually occurs in a student's junior year at the university.

Jeffrey C. Barnett, the dean of the 2,200-student education school, said administrators added the requirement in an effort to diversify the student population.

Besides, using the GPA as a primary admission criterion had its limits: A student with a 3.2 GPA wouldn't necessarily make a better teacher than one with a 2.8, he said.

"I really don't know of any other school anywhere that's doing what we're doing," Mr. Barnett added.

Though comparisons of education school admissions policies are not available, officials at both the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education confirmed that UW-Whitewater's new requirement is unusual.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is seeking comment from teachers, administrators, and other interested people on three new sets of standards for teachers seeking board certification.

The standards for teachers of vocational education, children with exceptional needs, and children learning English as a new language were written by committees of teachers and other education experts.

The Southfield, Mich.-based national board, a private group founded in 1987, is developing a voluntary system for certifying outstanding teachers.

The comments received from the public will be used to craft the final standards, which are used to devise the assessments given to teachers who apply for certification.

Information about reviewing the standards is available from Glowena Harrison at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 1730 Rhode Island Ave. N.W., Suite 909, Washington, D.C. 20036; (202) 463-3980.

--JEANNE PONESSAjponessa@epe.org & ANN BRADLEYabradley@epe.org

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