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Matchmaking Master's Program, Teaching Standards Afoot

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Teacher-educators from across the country will gather here this month to trade ideas for overhauling their master's programs to match national standards for accomplished teaching.

The meeting is part of a project financed by the National Partnership for Excellence and Accountability in Teaching, or NPEAT, a $23 million, five-year effort, underwritten by the Department of Education, to research and implement policies intended to improve the nation's teaching force. ("Ed. Dept. Funds Large-Scale Research Effort on Teaching," Oct. 29, 1997.)

Arthur A. Wise

The conference will bring together representatives of 34 colleges and universities whose teacher education programs are approved by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. The basis for their discussions will be the guidelines for accomplished teaching created by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the Southfield, Mich.-based organization that is building a system for certifying outstanding teachers.

James A. Kelly

CATE has received a $400,000, four-year grant from the partnership to support four annual conferences, commission papers, and evaluate the effort annually.

Districts' salary schedules reward teachers for earning advanced degrees, but they typically study curriculum or administration rather than the art of teaching a specific subject and grade level.

"Some have been focused on instruction, but many really take teachers out of the classroom," said Arthur E. Wise, the president of NCATE, who unveiled the project at a press briefing here last week.

'Tangible Step'

The goal of the privately organized national board, on the other hand, is to recognize outstanding teachers and encourage policymakers to reward them for their work in the classroom.

By creating master's programs aligned with the board's voluntary national teaching standards, education schools can help teachers prepare to undergo the rigorous assessment process, which takes about a year. And teachers who earn those degrees will be armed with the knowledge and skills to be successful on the assessments.

National board President James A. Kelly said the project marks "an important, tangible step" toward creating a more seamless career progression for teachers.

In other professions that have advanced certification, Mr. Wise noted, colleges and universities offer coursework to help practitioners prepare for the qualifying tests.

An increasing number of states and districts are enacting policies to reward nationally certified teachers or to pay all or part of the $2,000 fee for the assessments. But most teachers don't have any systematic way to prepare for the process.

In Los Angeles, nationally certified teachers can now earn a 15 percent annual salary increase. Part of the money is to compensate teachers for providing extra days of training to their peers.

In Mississippi, lawmakers have passed a measure to double to $6,000 the annual salary increase for nationally certified teachers.

These incentives, Mr. Kelly said, are creating a market among teachers for focused coursework to help them achieve certification.

State Requirement

A handful of colleges and universities already have begun designing programs geared to the national teaching standards.

Boyce Williams, the project director and vice president for institutional relations at NCATE, said participating colleges will form a network to share information. "They are starving, hungering to know what's going on," she said.

North Carolina has mandated that master's programs be revised to reflect the national standards for teachers. Gov. James A. Hunt Jr., a Democrat, is the founding chair of the national board. In exchange for undergoing the more rigorous programs, teachers will receive 10 percent raises for earning master's degrees, up from about 6 percent now.

Eugene C. Schaffer, the chairman of the department of middle, secondary, and K-12 education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said the requirement makes sense to him. "We're a professional school, and there are a set of professional standards we need to address."

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