Teaching & Learning

May 05, 2004 4 min read
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Iowa Teachers Lose Help In Preparation for National Board

Many Iowans think their devotion to education helps define who they are, so the decision to close down a center that helps prepare teachers for advanced certification potentially hurts the state’s pride as well as the success rate of those teachers.

But officials at the University of Northern Iowa, where Iowa’s only such support center is located, say the cash-strapped state just can’t afford the program right now. The public university, forced to make budget cuts, saved $200,000 by axing the program.

As a result, the center’s workshops for teachers applying for National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification is ending with this school year.

To get the stamp of approval, teachers have to pass a test and present extensive documentation of their teaching quality. Some 430 Iowa teachers have won certification so far.

William P. Callahan, the associate dean who oversaw the program at Northern Iowa, said nobody wanted to see the center go, but “finally it got to the point where we had to protect what we consider our core mission.”

Not only is the NBPTS certification “absolutely dynamite” for teacher professional development, the dean said, but the Iowa candidates also passed at a rate of 63 percent, compared with just 49 percent nationally, suggesting the helpfulness of the program.

A spokesman for the national board said officials there were unaware of any shutdowns among the scores of other such help centers, many of which also are based at universities.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, a state Chamber of Commerce-supported group is celebrating success in boosting the national credential in the Garden State. Since the Business Coalition for Educational Excellence started a support network for candidates and stepped up recruitment efforts in 2002, the number of New Jersey teachers applying for NBPTS certification has gone from 22 in 2001 to 99 last year. Further, the passing rate climbed from 18 percent the first year to 31 percent in the second. (Results are not back for 2003.)

“These teachers have attained one of the highest hallmarks of excellence in teaching and helped to raise the bar for teaching standards,” Dana Egreczky, the head of the business coalition, said in a statement.

Data Searches

The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, a nonprofit organization in Santa Cruz, Calif., has launched a data-based initiative to improve the quality of the teacher workforce in the Monterey Bay area.

Working with the Monterey Bay Educational Consortium, the center will establish the Teacher Workforce Initiative, which will examine teacher shortages in the area, and then, in cooperation with nearby community colleges and universities, use the data to fill teaching positions where the need is greatest.

According to the center, about 14 percent of the teachers in the area did not have teaching credentials in the 2002-03 school year. Most of those teachers were concentrated in low-performing schools serving poor and minority students.

The new project is supported by grants from the James Irvine Foundation and the Stuart Foundation, both in San Francisco.

Teacher Education Philanthropy

A San Francisco lawyer and his wife have teamed up with California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo to improve the supply of licensed mathematics and science teachers.

Joe and Victoria Cotchett have committed $7 million of their own money to launch the Cal Poly-Cotchett Initiative, which will focus on increasing the number of fully credentialed K- 12 math and science teachers in underserved regions of California.

Of the 37,300 teachers who have not yet met the state’s qualifications for a preliminary teaching certificate, 37 percent teach math and science, according to the university.

The initiative includes the Cotchett Fellows Program, in which teachers will agree to work for two years in an underserved district in exchange for a stipend that they will receive for three years, including the year they are earning their credential at Cal Poly.

Math and science teachers will also be invited to attend a summer professional-development institute to update their knowledge and skills. Other features include a summers-only master’s program, tuition scholarships, and an endowed professorship in mathematics and teacher education.

Mr. Cotchett, who is involved in a variety of charitable organizations and earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering from Cal Poly, has a desire to improve the education of young children from low-income families, according to the university.

Science Break

A tax break will enable students in Loudoun County, Va., to have the opportunity to conduct science experiments in middle school, learn biotechnology at a new magnet high school, and receive college scholarships to study science.

As part of what will become an ongoing partnership, the 41,000-student district near Washington will receive $1 million a year indefinitely from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for the new resources.

The partnership is part of a deal the Chevy Chase, Md.-based nonprofit institute worked out with the Loudoun County government to receive tax breaks on the institute’s new research facility being built in the area.

Funds from the recently announced arrangement will be used to overhaul the district’s middle school science curriculum, according to a press release.

In addition, 36 middle school science teachers, or three from every middle school in the district, will get to attend a professional-development workshop this summer to learn and evaluate the new lessons.

The deal will also pay for one-time college scholarships of $7,000 each for 14 graduating seniors, who will be selected on the basis of their grades, interest in science or science education, and financial need.

—Bess Keller, Linda Jacobson, & Michelle Galley


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