Teaching & Learning
First 'Distinguished Staff Developers' Crowned: The National Staff Development Council has crowned its first two "distinguished staff developers."
The council, a nonprofit association based in Oxford, Ohio, started work on a way to designate outstanding contributions to the field in 1994. Its 8,000 members include teachers, principals, and district and state officials responsible for designing staff-development programs.
After much hard work, says Stephanie Hirsch, the associate executive director, the council crafted a four-stage process for identifying exemplary practice.
"We're trying to model for the field that professional developers are lifelong learners, committed to improvements for adults and their students," Ms. Hirsch explained.
First, candidates gather feedback from clients, colleagues, and supervisors and complete a self-assessment based on the results. Then they compile portfolios of their professional work to be scored by a panel of experts.
In the third step, candidates meet with reviewers to defend their work. Candidates must be judged exemplary in six of eight "dimensions of staff-development practice" and must be able to draw conclusions about their work.
Finally, successful candidates receive the special designation and are expected to serve as coaches for others who elect to go through the process.
The fee for undergoing the process is $1,500, which candidates pay in increments as they progress through the stages.
The NSDC last month recognized the first two educators to earn the distinction. Dale Hair, the coordinator for the Center for Educational Services and Research at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, runs a statewide leadership-development program for principals.
Sandra Joy Crowther is the division director of evaluation and standards for the 10,000-student Lawrence, Kan., district, which won an award in 1997 from the U.S. Department of Education for its results-oriented approach to teacher professional development.
Help for New Teachers: A fledgling organization hopes to help the thousands of new teachers who will take jobs in the nation's schools in the coming years.
The National Association for Beginning Teachers, based in Denver, began accepting members last fall and now counts some 300 teachers in its fold.
The association grew out of "plain, old, simple need," said founder and President J. Victor McGuire, an associate professor of secondary education at Metropolitan State College of Denver.
No national organization focuses solely on new teachers, who typically are given the worst assignments, paid the lowest salaries, and let go first in times of budget trouble, he noted.
The 3,700-student East Lansing, Mich., district signed up 42 student-teachers and five new teachers. Superintendent Thomas R. Giblin says he believes the association will be "very helpful" in getting new teachers acclimated.
"This is a way to get them involved in a national association early on and create a little bit of a shock absorber," Mr. Giblin said. "It's a pretty fast-paced world these days."
The nonprofit group, which charges $49 for a one-year membership and $99 for two years, aims to help rookies with a bimonthly newsletter and a quarterly magazine called Inspire; national conferences, seminars, and workshops; and an interactive site on the World Wide Web.
It also offers members discounts on educational materials and the chance to earn mini-grants to finance projects. In the future, the association hopes to put together summer-tour opportunities and a fellowship to allow teachers to create service-learning programs in their districts.
Money for such endeavors, Mr. McGuire hopes, will be generated from his company, Spice of Life Educational Publishing, which produces the magazines and books that members will receive. Eventually, he plans to merge the company and the association into a single nonprofit organization.
The National Association for Beginning Teachers can be reached at 820 16th St., Suite 410, Denver, CO 80202, by calling (303) 893-1635, or by fax at (303) 893-1637. The Web site is www.beginningteachers.org.
Teacher Training Faulted: Even in Minnesota, where students routinely post top scores on national assessments, administrators, parents, and community activists have serious reservations about the quality of teacher education.
More than half the state's 2,000 principals and superintendents responded last fall to a survey on teacher preparation conducted for the state legislature by researchers from the Center for School Change at the University of Minnesota. The researchers also polled members of eight respected parent and community organizations in the Minneapolis-St.Paul area.
Respondents praised teachers' knowledge of their subject matter, but worried that they aren't adequately prepared to incorporate the state's new graduation standards into their classrooms. Young teachers got high marks for knowing how to use computers, promote hands-on learning, and create positive learning environments. But administrators and others were less satisfied with the novices' ability to involve community members and agencies, work with special-needs students, and involve parents and families in education.
More than three-fourths of the principals and superintendents who responded to the survey said they would be interested in speaking with prospective teachers or meeting with teacher-educators. But nearly 60 percent said they had not had such discussions in the past three years.
To remedy those shortcomings, the study calls for improving collaboration among colleges, schools, parents, and community groups in preparing teachers; making student teaching "longer and stronger"; and allowing outstanding K-12 schools to offer a master's degree in teaching to people who hold college degrees in any field.
Inconsistencies in the Arts: While more states now require aspiring college students to study the arts in high school, uneven policies throughout the nation fail to foster strong arts education programs, according to a series of studies by the National Art Education Association.
Ten states require the study of visual or performing arts for admission to state colleges and universities, up from just four in 1995, according to the latest report, "Status of the States: Arts Requirements for College Entrance," released by the Reston, Va.-based teachers' organization last month. But the gains have not kept pace with states' high school graduation policies. At least 32 states require students to take arts courses to earn a diploma, according to one recent NAEA survey. The grades students earn in regular and advanced arts classes, however, are often left out of grade-point calculations used to determine college admission, another of the NAEA studies found.
The inconsistencies spell out insufficient support for the arts in the curriculum, said Thomas Hatfield, the organization's executive director.
"In order for students to learn basic arts knowledge and skills," he said in releasing the study, "programs must be structured and supported to stay at the task of developing competence regularly and sequentially, year after year."
Holocaust Omissions: A state commission in Georgia has agreed to an addendum to a guide for teaching about the Holocaust after gay advocates protested the omission of references to the persecution that homosexuals suffered at the hands of the Nazis.
The Georgia Commission on the Holocaust, which drafted the 92-page guide, had deleted two paragraphs it deemed too sexually explicit for schoolchildren.
"German male homosexuals were targeted and arrested because they would not breed the master race: They were an affront to the Nazi macho image," reads one of the paragraphs.
Representatives of the Georgia Equality Project, a gay-rights advocacy group based in Atlanta, said that the passages were no more explicit than other portions of the booklet that describe the sexual mistreatment suffered by Jews and other prisoners of German concentration camps.
They also argued that the guides were designed for use by secondary teachers, who could determine whether the material was appropriate for their students.
The commission agreed last week to send copies of the deleted passages to teachers who ordered the guide, called "Triangles, Badges, & Stars: Remembering the Mosaic of Victims of the Holocaust." Holland & Knight, the Atlanta law firm that sponsored publication of the guide in three states, had the passages included in versions that went to teachers in Florida and California.
--Ann Bradley & Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Vol. 18, Issue 19, Page 7