Warranty Pledges Help for Struggling Teacher Graduates

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Like cars and washing machines, teachers who graduate from California State University-Long Beach this spring will come with one-year warranties.

Under a policy adopted last month, the university will aid stranded and struggling teachers during their first year on the job, shuttling education professors to school districts for one-on-one advice.

"As a part of the preparation, we have an obligation to go with [teachers] into the classroom," Robert Maxson, the president of the university, a campus of 28,600 students, said in an interview last week. "If we are doing as well as we think we are, then we'll have to honor this warranty very few times."

'Determination To Succeed'

The warranty--the first of its kind in California and one of a handful across the nation--will be applied to some 700 credentialed graduates, Mr. Maxson said. The Cal State system prepares more teachers than any other institution in California.

Unlike most other warranties, though, the one at Cal State-Long Beach will send the professors to the schools rather than require the novice teachers to return to the university campus.

It will be up to the teachers and their school administrators to ask the university for help. Once contact is initiated, the professor will confer with the teacher and his or her superiors to identify weaknesses and devise solutions. Details of how the process will work are still being discussed.

School district recruiters say they are pleased to know their new teachers will have support during what is typically the most challenging year in the classroom. Nationally, estimates are that more than 30 percent of teachers quit within the first five years.

The warranty "mainly gives you confidence that the person you've hired has been trained to do the job and that the university stands behind that," said Richard Van Der Laan, a spokesman for the Long Beach Unified School District, which hires about 15 percent of its new teachers from Cal State's local campus every year. "This should not be seen as an indication of failure so much as it is a determination to succeed."

Prospective teachers, too, say they appreciate the opportunity to get extra support.

"I don't have any problem with asking for help--two heads are better than one," said Kathleen A. Ballard, a student working toward certification at Cal State-Long Beach.

Cheap Fix?

A few warranty policies for teacher education graduates were offered about 20 years ago in Nebraska, according to David G. Imig, the chief executive of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, a 735-member group based in Washington. The state of Georgia now offers a similar plan as part of a larger reform effort.

"It's a cheap fix unless it's a part of a broader package aimed at improving the quality of teachers," Mr. Imig said. "If you talk to people from Georgia, very few schools call upon institutions to help them."

But the idea has gained political momentum as public debate has turned to teacher quality and the importance of K-16 partnerships.

And Charles B. Reed, the chancellor of the California State University system, would like to see warranties implemented in all the teacher-training schools in the system, said Ken Swisher, a spokesman for Mr. Reed.

"I think there has been more of an acceptance of the collective responsibility for the success of educators," said Kathy Cohn, the associate dean at Cal State's college of education in Long Beach. Precollegiate schools and higher education "all have to work together to maximize people's effectiveness," she said. "You really only do that by establishing partnerships with school districts."

Vol. 18, Issue 25, Page 5

Published in Print: March 3, 1999, as Warranty Pledges Help for Struggling Teacher Graduates
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