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Published in Print: January 12, 2005, as Reciprocal License Bestowed on New Teachers

Reciprocal License Bestowed on New Teachers

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Almost 200 teaching candidates from three East Coast states and the District of Columbia have earned a new designation that will allow them to work throughout the region without having to meet additional state licensing requirements.

An initiative of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Teachers Project, the Meritorious New Teacher Candidate program is the first regional reciprocal-licensing agreement in the country. Its purpose is to help states attract exemplary new teachers while also rewarding those prospective educators for meeting high standards.

“This is designed to honor highly qualified candidates,” said Diana Rigden, the director of the new program and a senior associate at the Washington-based American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which houses the regional project.

Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia are currently participating in the program, with 133 of the 192 newly certified teachers coming from Virginia. Maryland had 52, and Delaware had two. New Jersey and Pennsylvania are expected to join soon, Ms. Rigden said, adding that other states outside the immediate area, such as North Carolina, are also expressing interest.

William H. Graves, the dean of education at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., said license reciprocity is particularly important in his area—a military community—because students’ plans often change unexpectedly.

That’s what happened to Kim Morgan, a recipient of the credential from Old Dominion University and a new kindergarten teacher at the 530-student Fairfield Elementary School in Virginia Beach, Va.

“My husband is in the military, so we have to move frequently,” she said, adding that she wishes something like this license existed nationally. “As mobile as people are nowadays, it’s great for teachers not to have to jump through more hoops than we already have to.”

To receive the recognition—which remains valid for the length of a teacher’s initial certification—students had to complete a teacher education program that included at least 400 hours of supervised field experiences. They also had to meet their faculties’ highest student-teaching standards; score in the top 25 percent of students nationally on the Praxis II content-knowledge tests for their subject areas, and on the SAT, the Graduate Record Examinations, or the ACT; and earn at least a 3.5 grade point average.

New middle and high school teachers also had to major in their subject area and earn at least a 3.5 GPA in that subject.

Leaders of the regional project, which was founded by state education leaders in that geographic area, estimate that only about 10 percent of candidates a year would earn the designation.

Meeting a Need

While the program is specially designed for new teachers, those involved in designing it hope teachers will view it as a steppingstone to certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which is geared toward those who are experienced.

The special reciprocity license also gives new teachers something that their veteran colleagues in the classroom don’t have. But Mr. Graves said when new programs are launched, there’s always the chance that complaints will come from people who don’t qualify.

“Anytime you start a new program, that’s going to be an issue,” he said. “But we’re having such a difficult time attracting and keeping new teachers. This meets a need.”

Joan Baratz-Snowden, the deputy director of educational issues at the American Federation of Teachers, called the new program “an intelligent step” and said the criteria for earning the designation closely matches the standards the union recommends.

While the states are still working out some of the details, the designation means that a teacher will be licensed to teach in any of the participating states. It doesn’t mean, however, that teachers’ pensions and seniority status will also be portable, Ms. Rigden said.

Some education leaders, however, want to provide additional incentives to attract MNTC-certified teachers. Valerie A. Woodruff, the secretary of education in Delaware, said her state plans to pay these teachers what a second-year teacher would earn.

Vol. 24, Issue 18, Page 5

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