State Chiefs Seek End to Ed.-School Requirement for Teachers
Little Rock, Ark--The Council of Chief State School Officers, citing a need to draw more talented people into the teaching profession, has urged states to write new certification laws and regulations that do not require prospective teachers to take undergraduate education courses.
Breaking the long-established practice of tying a teaching license to an education degree would help the profession attract able candidates who do not want to teach full time and those from top colleges that do not offer teacher-training programs, the organization said in a position paper adopted at its annual meeting here late last month. The council represents the chief state school officers of the 50 states and six other U.S. jurisdictions.
Strengthening the teaching profession, the council said, "is the single most important component in achieving educational excellence and equity."
Recent reports on American schooling have been critical of the caliber of those going into teaching in recent years, and, in particular, of the nation's 1,330 teacher-training programs and of state laws and regulations that require prospective teachers to enroll in them. The chief state school officers, through the state education agencies that they direct, are responsible for certifying teachers in the states.
Ted Sanders, superintendent of education in Nevada and chairman of the council committee that drafted the policy paper, called the organization's new position on teacher certification "very important." "The key to quality is improving the qualifications of those coming into the profession," he said.
Another member of the council's committee on teaching, Robert D. Benton, superintendent of public instruction in Iowa, told the council during a debate over the policy paper: "We want to put this organization in the camp with those who feel that there are [talented people] who can contribute without fulfilling the traditional requirements."
The council says in its policy statement that states "should develop alternative approaches to certifying [teachers]. Such options might include using credit for work experience or the use of 'competency measures' as a means of qualifying for certification."
The policy statement differs considerably from a draft prepared 18 months ago, principally by Robert G. Scanlon, then Pennsylvania's secretary of education and chairman of the council's teaching committee.
The central recommendation of that draft called on states to improve the caliber of new teachers by raising the cutoff scores on certification examinations in an effort to reduce the supply of new teachers, drive up salaries, and thus attract more able people to the profession. (See Education Week, May 12, 1982.)
Mr. Sanders said the Scanlon draft was rewritten because it overemphasized "paper-and-pencil testing" as a means of upgrading the teaching profession.
In the policy statement adopted last month, the council noted that, in most states, it would take major changes to statutes and regulations to open the profession to a wider range of candidates.
The council also said steps must be taken to ensure that such efforts to expand the pool of teacher candidates do not have the effect of simply lowering existing entrance standards.
The organization also recommended that the training of teachers be extended to include, for example, a fifth year in college or a year-long teaching apprenticeship. Teachers should not be licensed unless they successfully complete such an extended program, the council said.
In all, the policy paper, "Staffing the Nation's Schools: A National Emergency," includes 37 recommendations for improving various parts of the teaching profession. Among them:
"Differentiated-staffing" and master-teacher programs should be set up in each state.
The states should accommodate those who wish to teach part time. "A variety of options should be available to teachers regarding the time they are assigned to teach, and the assignments themselves should be appropriate to the teachers' training and interests," the council said in its policy paper.
Teachers should be awarded longer contracts, with the additional time being used for professional and curriculum-development activities.
More research should be conducted on such topics as teacher supply and demand, the relative value of various incentives for attracting top candidates into the profession, and the elements of an effective teacher-training program.
In addition to Mr. Sanders and Mr. Benton, the council's committee on teaching includes Lynn Simons, superintendent of public instruction in Wyoming; Stephen S. Kaagan, commissioner of education in Vermont; and Wayne Teague, superintendent of education in Alabama.