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Published in Print: May 3, 2000, as Teaching & Learning

Teaching & Learning

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National Board Certification Shows Little Ripple Effect,
Study Finds

Teachers certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards become more reflective and analytical about their teaching, but don't have much effect on the world outside their own classrooms, a recent study concludes.

Researchers at the Consortium for Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin- Madison looked at the effects of certification by the national board in five school districts. Their findings cannot be generalized beyond the districts studied, but do provide information on the relatively new system of certifying outstanding teachers.

Certified teachers and their principals generally agreed that the process was beneficial, saying that it helped them reflect on their classroom strategies and student learning. But it was difficult for the principals to link any improvements in student learning to their teachers' achievement of certification.

And the larger hope that nationally certified teachers would assume leadership roles in their schools and districts has not yet been fulfilled, the study suggests. In four of the five districts studied by Carolyn Kelley, an education professor, and doctoral student Steven Kimball, the effects of board certification had yet to be felt.

Ms. Kelley noted that national certification is still new and predicted that as more educators become aware of it, the influence of the voluntary, privately organized system might grow.

"A lot of principals and district administrators didn't know much at all" about national certification, she said. "If [administrators] had taken a different approach, it might have been different."


Recruitment Guidance:

Recruiting New Teachers Inc., a nonprofit organization in Belmont, Mass., that acts as a national clearinghouse on teacher-recruitment and -retention issues, has released a guide to help districts grapple with the demand for teachers.

"A Guide to Today's Teacher Recruitment Challenges" is the first of a four-part series to be published this spring. The first pamphlet includes facts on the predicted national teacher shortage, information on how to make a case for recruiting a diverse teacher workforce, strategies for selling a district to prospective teachers, and tips on using the Internet to recruit.

Copies are available for $12.95 each, plus $3 shipping, from RNT at 385 Concord Ave., Belmont, MA 02478.

Another recruitment aid is available from the National Education Association. The union profiles proven efforts by its state affiliates, school districts, and education schools to attract and keep minority teachers. The NEA's directory of more than 100 initiatives, "National Directory of Successful Strategies for the Recruitment and Retention of Minority Teachers," is available free of charge by calling 202-822-7200.


Union Roles:

A new book to be published next month by the Brookings Institution, Conflicting Missions? Teachers Unions and Educational Reform, presents arguments from both loyal supporters and harsh critics over the role of unions in ongoing efforts to improve schools.

Edited by Tom Loveless, the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Washington-based think tank, it includes chapters on collective bargaining, professional licensing, school choice and the National Education Association, international teacher unionism, and the evolving "new unionism" advocated by some scholars and union leaders that would make school quality a union responsibility.

The book is an outgrowth of a conference held at Harvard University in 1998 to examine the role of unions and to fill in gaps in the scant scholarly research on teacher unionism.

In his foreword, Mr. Loveless warns that "ideologues who are searching for unequivocal evidence that teachers unions either wear halos from heaven or horns from hell will not find what they are looking for in this volume." But they will find that unions are complex and interesting, and wield both positive and negative influence on the national effort to improve schools, he says.


America's Story Online:

Students looking to get behind the scenes of history can now explore the largest library in the world and view thousands of stories, photos, and illustrations from America's past online. The Library of Congress in Washington last week unveiled its new Web site, designed to give children and their parents access to the archives.

"America's Story From America's Library" features more than 3,000 pages with biographies of notable figures, state chronicles, descriptions of important events and dates, and even historical perspectives on sports and music.

"We are trying to reach a different audience than our other online services, which are used primarily by adults," said Guy Lamolinara, a spokesman for the library. "We've adapted the images and stories that we already offer online to bring history to life for a younger audience."

The Web site is designed at the 6th grade level, although it is meant for younger and older children as well. On its first day, the site attracted nearly 800,000 hits, Mr. Lamolinara said.

"America's Story From America's Library" is available at www.americaslibrary.gov.


Reading-Writing Perspectives:

High school teachers and their university counterparts have conflicting views of which reading and writing skills are most critical in preparing students for college, according to a survey by ACT Inc., the publisher of college-entrance exams.

While many secondary teachers are placing the most instructional emphasis on helping students organize their writing, college professors say that building grammar skills deserves more attention, the survey of more than 6,500 teachers and instructors concludes.

Respondents were asked to rank by importance six groups of writing skills: organization, strategy, sentence structure, style, punctuation, and grammar and usage. Nearly three-fourths of high school teachers said "establishing logical order" is a very important writing skill for students, while just 40 percent of college respondents agreed. Some 60 percent of secondary teachers thought that "knowing how to choose the appropriate transition word or phrase is very important, compared with just 14 percent of college instructors.

When rating reading skills, most high school teachers stressed that students should be able to understand the main ideas and draw conclusions from a text, as well as know the literal and figurative meanings of what they read. College-level teachers rated those skills as less important than grammar and sentence structure.

"Educators obviously need to communicate their differences to one another if we're to help college-bound students cross the 'preparation gap,'" said Cynthia B. Schmeiser, ACT's vice president for test development.

—Ann Bradley & Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Vol. 19, Issue 34, Page 10

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