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'Pathways' Teacher Recruits Stay on Track

Model programs that are helping paraprofessionals and returning Peace Corps volunteers become teachers show promise, says a preliminary report on the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund's "Pathways to Teaching Careers" initiative.

The fund has spent $40 million since 1989 to set up programs at 42 colleges and universities to provide scholarships and support services so that classroom aides, noncertified teachers, and former Peace Corps volunteers could go back to school and earn bachelor's or master's degrees and teaching licenses. Its goal is to increase the supply of minority teachers and to provide teachers for hard-to-staff schools.

The results of a continuing evaluation of the initiative conducted by the Washington-based Urban Institute show that the "Pathways" programs are retaining 90 percent of their students. This figure contrasts favorably with the record of traditional teacher education programs, the report says, which lose, on average, one-third of their enrollments by graduation.

The model programs also have changed the institutions that host them, the report says, noting that many of the colleges now offer day care and flexible schedules to allow full-time workers who are parents to complete their requirements.

Spanish Educators Come to Texas

Under a new agreement between Texas state education officials and the Spanish Ministry of Education and Culture, a handful of school administrators throughout the Lone Star State will soon be able to fill teaching positions on a temporary basis with bilingual educators from Spain.

Beginning next fall, the visiting-teacher program will let Texas districts hire the teachers for one- to six-year contracts. The program will likely bring up to four Spanish educators each to six or seven of the state's largest districts in its first year, but it will later expand, said Gonzalo Gomez, the Spanish Embassy official who signed the agreement.

While helping U.S. districts find bilingual teachers, the arrangement also will give professional development to the educators from Spain. "They will get good Spanish teachers in Texas, and it will improve our teaching of English in Spain," he said.

Although the Texas districts will pay the Spanish teachers' salaries, the Spanish government will pay travel expenses for the Texas administrators who go to Spain to interview candidates.

The arrangement is the latest in a series of such agreements that the Spanish government has made with several states and a few school districts.

California, which signed an agreement with Spain in 1986, now has more than 300 teachers working temporarily in its districts. Other agreements have been signed more recently with officials in Connecticut, Maryland, and New Mexico, Mr. Gomez said.

Along with the visiting-teacher program, the Texas agreement includes an exchange program that will permit Texas educators to teach English in Spain for one year while their Spanish counterparts work in the United States. Another Texas exchange program will allow teachers-in-training from each country to work in the other as teaching assistants in bilingual and foreign-language classes.

Basic Schools Project Moves to NYC

A project dedicated to remaking elementary schools has found a new home at Teachers College, Columbia University.

The Basic Schools project was launched by Ernest L. Boyer, the president of what is now the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, shortly before his death in December 1995.

The 21 schools that belong to the network have agreed to provide a supportive community for children, a coherent and connected curriculum, an enriched learning environment, and character development.

The foundation last month selected Teachers College to carry on Mr. Boyer's legacy through the creation of a Basic Schools National Center.

The center will be housed at the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching, or NCREST, at the college in New York City. NCREST will evaluate the effectiveness of the project, coordinate its expansion, draft and distribute curriculum and assessment materials, and provide technical assistance to teachers, schools, districts, and states.

Several of the existing Basic Schools also are gearing up to become regional centers that will help other schools.

Beverly Falk, the associate director of NCREST and the coordinator of the new national center, said both the regional and national centers will work together to ensure that a "national presence for these ideas is established."

Fighting Censorship

Educators forced to defend their use of controversial books in their classrooms will soon find a new resource to help justify their selections. The educational rationales for more than 200 books that have been challenged by parents and groups over the years will be compiled onto a CD-ROM and made available to teachers next year, says the National Council of Teachers of English.

"The Rationales for Challenged Books," sponsored by the NCTE and the International Reading Association, is to be released early next year. It will include book descriptions and summaries, intended audiences, potential objections and how to address them, book reviews by national education organizations, and suggestions for alternative literary works.

Armed with such information, teachers are better able to argue how the books enrich the curriculum and improve their lessons, NCTE officials say. The computerized version will also assist teachers in expanding classroom discussions beyond the literary characteristics of a work to its moral and ethical elements. The database will be upgraded regularly.

Foreign-Language Standards Get Grant

A $300,000 federal grant will help the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages implement its voluntary national standards.

The three-year U.S. Department of Education grant will be used to draft performance-based assessments for K-12 that will go beyond the grammar and vocabulary tests traditionally used to measure students' proficiency in foreign languages.

The funding will also allow the organization, based in Yonkers, N.Y., to explore the use of technology to make the assessments available for use by all foreign-language students and to train teachers in how to use them.

The ACTFL was instrumental in the development of the national standards, which were released in 1995.

AP Adds Geography Courses

Geography will be among the courses offered in the Advanced Placement program beginning in the 2000-2001 school year, according to the New York City-based College Board.

The course, which will join the 31 other college-level offerings that the College Board sponsors, will mirror a three-credit human-geography course offered at the introductory level at colleges and universities. It will include such topics as: population distribution and movement; political organization in space, and rural land use; economic development; and urbanization.

The move was prompted by the increasing popularity of the subject, which has gotten a boost in the past decade from an increased awareness of environmental issues, and by its inclusion as a core subject in the federal Goals 2000: Educate America Act, officials said.

Weekly Reader Spins Science

The children's newspaper Weekly Reader has begun publishing a special science supplement for teachers and students.

Science Spin will be published monthly as a four-page supplement to the regular weekly school-year issues of the newspaper. It is available in six different versions--one for each grade level from kindergarten through a combined version for grades 5-6. A teacher's guide is to accompany each issue.

The science supplement is designed to help teachers update the science curriculum and bring news about the life, earth, and physical sciences into the classroom--whether it is the exploration of Mars, a hurricane, or a new roller coaster.

Features include "The Y Files," which answers science questions such as why skin shrivels after a bath, and "You Be the Scientist," a hands-on activity or experiment related to the main news in each issue. Material in Science Spin conforms to the national science education standards, according to its editors.

Weekly Reader, based in Stamford, Conn., and published by K-III Communications in New York City, has a circulation of 8 million. In addition to the regular $3.25 annual per-person cost for Weekly Reader, subscribers to Science Spin must pay an additional 75 cents-per-person fee. The science supplement has an initial paid circulation of 500,000.

Weekly Reader, and portions of Science Spin, can also be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.weeklyreader.com.


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