Proposals To Strengthen California Teaching Profession Unveiled

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Sacramento, Calif--A privately financed commission, capping a 15-month study of California's teaching profession, has submitted a broad array of recommendations, including $25,000 salaries for beginning teachers, substantially reduced class sizes, and major changes in the structure and governance of the profession.

The proposals made by the California Commission on the Teaching Profession in its report,"Who Will Teach Our Children?: A Strategy for Improving California's Schools," were endorsed last week by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig and by Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

In related news, Mr. Honig and W. Ann Reynolds, chancellor of the California State University System--in what they called an "unprecedented" joint budget request--announced last week they would attempt to have included in the 1986-87 budget a $12-million proposal to bring university faculty members into closer contact with public schools, strengthen teacher training, and recruit more members of minorities into teaching.

'Set the Direction'

The 17-member teaching commission was set up in 1983 by educational and legislative leaders who saw teachers as "the key to the state's success in raising academic standards while educating its entire new student population," the panel's report said. Its study was underwritten by a $400,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The commission presented its 27 recommendations during a Capitol news conference. Dorman L. Commons, chairman of the commission, said the panel unanimously believed its proposals could "lead to dramatic and unprecedented improvement in California schools" and "set the direction for public education for the decade ahead."

California schools, the report said, "must recruit nearly 85,000 additional teachers by the end of the decade. They must be good teachers, or the product they turn out will be inferior."

'Index of Conditions

Mr. Commons called attention to a recommendation to establish a biennial "index of conditions for teaching and learning" for every school. The index would provide a public report on such factors as class size and teaching loads, teacher assignments outside areas of competence, sufficiency and currency of textbooks, school order, behavior problems, and teacher assessments of the quality of school leadership.

Mr. Commons also said the commission was "acutely aware" that some of its proposals would cost "a considerable amount of money--$1-billion wouldn't begin to touch it."

But he noted that "it isn't that the state of California can't afford it. We're again leading the list [of states] in lowest per-capita support for our schools."

Commission members plan to spend the next three months advertising their recommendations and trying to enlist the support of political and education leaders before the legislature reconvenes in January.

The panel also recommended that school officials:

Require teacher candidates who pass state examinations following their fifth year of coursework to begin a one-year teaching "residency," with a reduced class load and support from a mentor teacher in the school and a university professor.

Abolish the current state commission on teacher credentials and replace it with a board on which teachers would constitute the majority.

End the licensing of teachers on the basis of the courses they have taken, and instead require thorough testing of individual candidates.

Eliminate emergency credentials and direct universities to design concentrated programs leading to a clear credential for "work-sea8soned people" and others who already have a bachelor's degree in the field in which they plan to teach.

Extend from two years to three years the probationary period required before tenure is granted, and have teams of experienced teachers evaluate new instructors.

Establish advanced university programs and exams that teachers, after five years in the classroom, could take voluntarily to qualify for higher pay.

Fund 10 district proposals for developing model career ladders.

Joint Budget Request

In a separate development affecting teaching in California, Superintendent Honig and Chancellor Rey-nolds called a news conference here to announce their unusual joint budget request. They then took their proposal to the state finance department to seek its inclusion in next year's state budget.

Under the joint proposal:

Faculty members in the California State University System would get time off from regular teaching duties to help teachers in high schools with high concentrations of minority students to strengthen the English and mathematics curricula.

csu undergraduates considering teaching careers would be paid to tutor "borderline" students in 100 minority junior high schools to enhance the students' prospects for entering college-preparatory coursesin high school.

csu faculty members and teachers in selected urban schools would join in a pilot program to support and assist beginning instructors during their first year of teaching--a time when 50 percent drop out of the profession in some urban areas.

The csu system would seek to recruit more minority students into teaching through programs on selected csu, community-college, and high-school campuses.

Planning grants would be provided to assist csu academic departments, schools of education, and local school districts to find new, more effective ways to integrate formal academic studies--in such subjects as history and science--and teacher training with classroom experience.

Vol. 05, Issue 11

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