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Reporter’s Notebooks

March 08, 2000 4 min read

Teacher-Preparation Programs Need Retooling,
Standards Board Says

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards wants to make benchmarks central to teacher-preparation programs around the country within the next several years.

Institutions should align their teacher education curricula with the ambitious standards set by the NBPTS over the past decade, said Betty Castor, the president of the private, nonprofit organization, which is based in Southfield, Mich.

Colleges and universities should also engage K-12 teachers who become board-certified as on-campus consultants in an attempt to bring real-world expertise to college lecture halls, she said.

Betty Castor

“What I’d like to propose is an even fuller, broader partnership between the national board, [K-12] schools, and colleges of education,” Ms. Castor said. “We can work together to develop courses—either electives or required—that focus on the philosophy [of education], the history [of education], and the nuts and bolts of the national board process.”

Ms. Castor unveiled the board’s agenda to an audience of several hundred teacher- educators and college administrators in a keynote address here last week at the 52nd annual conference of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

Colleges are being criticized for weak teacher-preparation programs, while many states fail to mandate tough standards for teachers, said Ms. Castor, a former Florida commissioner of education.

Aligning teacher-preparation programs with the demanding NBPTS benchmarks would ensure that graduates have the skills needed to produce results in the classroom, she argued. Teachers would be ready to earn board certification after the required three years in the classroom, adding value to their resumes and generating salary bonuses in states that give cash rewards for such certification, she said.

“I have talked with many teachers who believe their national board experience to be much more meaningful than their pursuit of a master’s degree,” Ms. Castor said. “What makes the program a success is its focus on classroom practice.”

Educators who apply for the board’s voluntary national certification undergo a year-long assessment that requires them to demonstrate skills through portfolios, classroom evaluations, and writing samples showcasing knowledge of their disciplines.

They must meet five NBPTS standards before gaining certification. Only about half the teachers who apply for certification succeed on their first attempt.

The NBPTS has certified 5,800 educators since 1987, the year the board was founded, the organization reports. The board hopes to certify more than 100,000 teachers by 2006.

A handful of institutions have already incorporated the board’s standards into their teacher-preparation programs, Ms. Castor said, including George Washington University in Washington, George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz.

Administrators in the California State University system are considering aligning their curricula with the NBPTS benchmarks at all of the 16 institutions in the system that offer education degrees, said Phyllis Fernlund, the dean of the school of education at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif.

Not everyone is pleased.

“There is no evidence that board-certified teachers are better teachers than non-certified teachers,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., the president of the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, who did not attend the conference. “The only good notion here is the idea of [K-12] teachers playing a role in the training of new teachers.”

But broad support in the California State University system and at other colleges around the country shows that the teaching-standards board is building a national following, said Gary R. Galluzzo, a member of the NBPTS board of directors and the dean of the graduate school of education at George Mason University.

Aligning teacher colleges’ curricula with board standards nationwide “achieves our third mission—to bring reform to the field,” Mr. Galluzzo said. “We are starting to have an impact beyond those immediately affected by our assessments.”

Collaboration between institutions of higher education and precollegiate schools surfaced as a theme throughout the Feb. 26-29 conference.

David Imig

“There are incredible expectations that we’re going to immerse ourselves in schools” in the new millennium, David G. Imig, the executive director of AACTE, said in an interview here.

Separate improvement efforts in the worlds of precollegiate and higher education “have been very much a part of the problem,” added Arturo Pacheco, the dean of the college of education at the University of Texas at El Paso and a keynote speaker.

Schools “dismiss college training as unrelated or abstract,” Mr. Pacheco said, while “many university professors are out of touch with what is going on in the classroom.”

Mr. Pacheco noted that divisions exist within universities. Colleges of education often don’t collaborate with colleges of arts and sciences, he said, to ensure that graduates have strong backgrounds in both education theory and their academic disciplines.

—Julie Blair

A version of this article appeared in the March 08, 2000 edition of Education Week as Reporter’s Notebooks


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