A new computer network at Boise State University is aimed at reducing the feelings of isolation and helplessness experienced by many teachers in their first year on the job.
Financed with a $132,374 grant from the U.S. West Foundation, the network will link 25 beginning teachers and their professors at the university. Fledgling teachers can use the network to carry on "conversations" about problems they encounter on the job, to seek advice, and to get emotional support.
The system is based on a pilot project begun in 1987 by Harvard University's graduate school of education. (See Education Week, May 4, 1988.)
The goal of both projects is to find ways to reduce the problems that contribute to a national "dropout" rate of 15 percent among first-year teachers.
"The profession of teaching puts neophytes into what is essentially a 'sink or swim' situation," said Richard Hart, dean of Boise State's college of education. He said computer networks present a potential national solution to the kinds of difficulties that cause many teachers to quit the profession so early in their careers.
A report on New Jersey's widely known "alternate route" to teacher certification points to steady increases in the number of candidates applying to become teachers through nontraditional programs.
Between October 1988 and September 1989, 1,165 candidates applied to the program, an increase of 13 percent over the previous year, the state education department reports. Similar increases in the number of applicants were posted in the two previous years: 14 percent and 16 percent.
Saul Cooperman, the commissioner of education, said the influx has caused the state's pool of teacher applicants to "more than double" over the past four years.
"We're now seeing some real competition for jobs," he said.
More formally known as the New Jersey Provisional Teacher Program, the alternate-route project was designed as a way for college graduates to enter the profession without having to go through a traditional preparation program.
The candidates for state certification work as full-time, salaried teachers while participating in state-approved training programs.
Despite criticism from teachers' unions and some teacher educators, the concept of alternative certification has been gaining prominence in recent years. Conferees at President Bush's education summit said such certification should be pursued nationally.
Robert Rubenow, a former Illinois school superintendent, has been hired to direct efforts to establish a "National Teachers Hall of Fame" at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kan.
Mr. Rubenow, who will assume his new duties this week, is the former superintendent of the Rich Township High Schools in Park Forest, Ill.
Dave Eldridge, secretary-treasurer of the National Teachers Hall of Fame Foundation, said Mr. Rubenow will organize a fund-raising drive to build the hall of fame, as well as a museum and exhibition center and a conference center.
To date, the foundation has raised $80,000 without a formal campaign, Mr. Eldridge said. The project has been endorsed by several prominent education groups, including both the national teachers' unions, he added.
Emporia State University, Mr. Eldridge noted, has its roots in teacher education. It was designated the state "normal school" in 1863.
And the school's central location should make it easy for visitors to find, he suggested.
"At the heart of democracy is the education system," he said, "and at the heart of America will be the Teachers Hall of Fame."
Arizona school districts participating in the state's career-ladder pilot project showed a "definite increase" in student achievement after the program was introduced, a study has found.
In addition, it found, the gains in performance on the state-mandated Iowa Test of Basic Skills remained consistent over the following three years.
Even before the pilot program began in 1985-86, students in the first seven pilot districts scored better than did students in districts that did not participate, the researchers at Arizona State University note.
However, the gap between the districts widened after the project was launched, the researchers say.
The study focused only on districts that implemented a career ladder for teachers during the first phase of the state's pilot program. Eventually, a total of 14 districts tested the ladder, which offers teachers career incentives.
The findings echo the results of a 1988 study of North Carolina's career-ladder pilot program. That survey, by the state education department, found that students in the pilot districts posted bigger achievement gains than did students in other systems.
Louann Bierlein, assistant director of education studies for the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State, said she attributes the gains to intensive staff development, peer evaluation and coaching, and the incorporation of student academic achievement into teachers' evaluations.
A joint legislative committee has recommended that the program be made permanent.
--ab & dv