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Published in Print: April 28, 1999, as Deregulation Urged To Enrich Teacher Corps

Deregulation Urged To Enrich Teacher Corps

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A mostly conservative-leaning group of scholars, education officials, and state policymakers has signed on to a cyberspace-based teacher-quality "manifesto" proclaiming that deregulation holds the key to improvement.

Drafted under the auspices of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, the document titled "The Teachers We Need and How To Get More of Them" presents an important alternative view on improving instruction, said Chester E. Finn Jr., the president of the Washington-based organization.

"There is a worrisome tendency to embrace the conventional wisdom," he said. "And so it's all the more urgent to give people a different way to think about things."

The bulk of current policy discussions about teacher quality, Mr. Finn said, focuses on inputs, such as the kinds of education courses prospective teachers need to take before they can become licensed.

In contrast, the document argues that states should set only minimal requirements for people seeking to enter the teaching profession. States also should ensure that a teacher has an undergraduate degree, a solid general education, deep subject-area knowledge, and no record of misbehavior.

Online Appeal

Once in the profession, the manifesto says, teachers should be evaluated based on students' results.

The document has already been signed by some 70 people, including former U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett; Jeanne Allen, the president of the Washington-based Center for Education Reform; and Govs. John Engler of Michigan and Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, both Republicans. One signer only identifies himself as a parent.

The foundation placed the manifesto on the World Wide Web, at www.edexcellence.net so that others may sign it.

Willis D. Hawley, the executive director of the National Partnership for Excellence and Accountability in Teaching, said he doesn't see evidence of large numbers of talented people wanting to become teachers but running into regulatory barriers. "We're not going to solve the problem by deregulating the system," he argued. "We can do a better job by changing the system that is there."

Vol. 18, Issue 33, Page 3

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