N.J. May Drop Teaching Mandate for Superintendents

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Continuing a series of efforts aimed at drawing non-educators into school jobs, New Jersey's schools chief last week asked the state board of education to eliminate a mandate that local superintendents have prior classroom or administrative experience.

If approved, the proposed changes in the state licensing code would make New Jersey the only state not to require teaching-related service for top administrators. The state already plans this fall to implement a similar program for principals, which would also be the first of its kind.

At the board meeting last week, Commissioner of Education Saul Cooperman also called for new licensing requirements for vocational-education teachers.

Approval of the proposals would mark the completion of Mr. Cooperman's five-year campaign to upgrade certification codes for educators at several levels.

Mr. Cooperman argued that the proposed changes in the code for superintendents reflected a long-term shift in administrators' duties.

"The superintendent's job has grown more and more complex and now demands policymaking, motivational, and diplomacy skills," he said in a statement. "Yet the process of training and recruiting these leaders has not changed for decades."

The new standards for principals will require prospective principals to teach one class during their first year of provisional certification.

But under the proposed code for superintendents, there is no classroom-experience mandate at all.

That clause has sparked opposition from the New Jersey Education Association and the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, both of which earlier had protested the changes in the principals' code.

"We think this is wrongheaded, and would be disastrous for New Jersey schools," said Margaret C. Murphy, chief counsel for the njasa. She contended that superintendents should have at least three years of teaching and three years of administrative experience.

Few Non-Educators Expected

Leo Klagholz, director of the state's division of teacher preparation and certification, said last week that he did not expect many non-educators to attempt the alternative route.

"All things being equal, most school boards would want someone with education experience," he said. "But, all things not being equal, they may want some other qualifications a non-educator could offer."

He added that school districts may also set standards for job applicants that go beyond those called for in the proposed licensing code.

Under the proposal, candidates for superintendencies must:

Hold a master's degree in a leadership or management field;

Pass a written examination related to school administration;

Be evaluated at a state assessment center; and

Complete a 30- to 60-day "pre-residency" and a one-year paid residency as a provisionally certified superintendent, working with a "mentor" administrator.

During their first year, new superintendents would also be required to attend at least 135 hours of instruction on related topics. That training could be waived if the courses were included in the candi4date's previous study.

Currently, a candidate for a superintendent's certificate must have a master's degree in any field, six years of school experience, and a few prescribed courses in administration.

"The training of most New Jersey superintendents far exceeds these minimums," Mr. Klagholz noted, "but the state requirements clearly are deficient."

If the code is adopted, it would go into effect in September 1991.

The state board plans to discuss the new proposals at its April meeting, followed by public hearings.

Both njea and njasa officials said they plan to testify against the superintendents' code.

Mr. Klagholz said he does not ex8pect the issue to become as divisive as the principals' code, which was adopted in 1988 after months of debate.

"Because the codes are so much the same," he said, "it would be hard for anyone to bring up a different argument that we haven't heard.''

But Ms. Murphy said the earlier opposition "fell on deaf ears."

"We're ready to fight this one out again," the njasa official said.

Vocational Certification

Mr. Cooperman's proposal also contained a call for eliminating the "emergency certification" option for vocational-education teachers.

Under current standards, such teachers must have a bachelor's degree, or work experience plus 18 credits of general college work, and about 30 credits in educational theory.

But the emergency-certification option, which has existed for five years, allows job applicants to be hired even if they do not meet those standards.

Mr. Klagholz said virtually no candidates meet the current standards, and most have been placed in the classroom without any special supervision or specified training program.

Under the proposal, vocational teachers would be required to have four years' experience in the trade to be taught, obtain a state certificate in that trade, and pass a test of communication skills. Candidates also would have to complete a year working with a mentor teacher, and undergo standard teacher training.

Vol. 09, Issue 25

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