Column One: Teachers

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Aspiring school-district leaders enrolled in the new urban superintendents' program at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education will take lessons this spring from a teacher advocate who has repeatedly called for schools to be radically overhauled.

The class, "Education Reform and School Restructuring," is being taught by Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Mr. Shanker, who has been teaching at the school since 1987, will ask his students to analyze recent reforms ranging from state legislative mandates to district- and school-based initiatives.

"I'll be asking students to determine exactly what problems these initiatives are trying to solve," Mr. Shanker said. "What assumptions are made about how schools and teaching and learning work? What's the fit between the strategies employed and the problems we are trying to solve?"

The Harvard students will take close looks at reform efforts in Dade County, Fla., Chicago, and Kentucky, as well as examine the governance and politics of education and their relationship to school change. They will also explore new models of school organization and management, and choice, competition, and incentives in education--a favorite theme of Mr. Shanker.

Educators from around the country gathered last week in South Padre Island, Tex., for what was billed as the first national conference on alternative teacher certification.

The three-day conference included presentations on nontraditional routes to certification in California, Kentucky, Minnesota, South Carolina, and Texas, as well as an explanation of a program run by the U.S. Navy that encourages former military personnel to become teachers.

The participants also explored the need for national standards for high quality alternate-route programs.

A foundation has been formed in Oklahoma to establish a national network of teachers trained by Marva Collins, who has received international acclaim for the inner-city Chicago preparatory school she established in 1975.

The board of directors of the Marva Collins Westside Preparatory School Foundation, headquartered in Ponca City, Okla., will be chaired by John Ogren of Houston, a senior vice president of Conoco Inc.

The foundation, which is supported by grants from several corporations and foundations, has trained teachers in 24 troubled Oklahoma schools and has sent teachers to observe Ms. Collins's techniques in her own school.--ab

Vol. 10, Issue 30

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