N.J. Commission Requests Funding To Upgrade Teacher Education

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New Jersey's 21 public and private colleges and universities could face a tough assignment from the body that governs them: Expand and improve your teacher- preparation programs—as quickly as possible.

The Commission on Higher Education made those goals a priority in a budget memo submitted last week to Gov. Christine Todd Whitman in which the panel asked her to consider spending $10 million on the effort in the upcoming fiscal year. The legislature also would have to approve the expenditure.

Under the plan, colleges and universities would receive incentive grants and draft their own plans to expand and improve schools of education, according to the memo. The commission did, however, suggest that colleges model their programs after those already found to be effective. They should also strive to "smooth the transition from two- to four-year colleges," the memo says.

The state education department is working with the colleges to establish criteria for the distribution of such funds.

New Jersey's schools of education are "excellent," declared Amy H. Handlin, a member of the commission and a professor of marketing at Monmouth University in West Long Branch.

Amy H. Handlin

"We just need more of them."

Part of a Trend

The state has not yet projected the number of teachers it will need in the near future, Ms. Handlin said. What is known, though, is that New Jersey's teacher shortage is part of a national trend: The U.S. Department of Education estimates that more than 2 million new teachers will have to be hired over the next decade to fill vacant positions and meet the demands of an increasing school-age population.

In addition to expanding teacher-preparation programs, the New Jersey commission broadly outlined a number of goals, including:

• College presidents should make teacher-preparation programs central to their institutions' missions, while schools of education should increase their teacher-candidates' subject-matter knowledge by involving arts and science faculty members in the education school.

• Teacher-preparation programs should be aligned with K-12 curriculum standards.

• Collaborations between K-12 schools and education schools in curriculum development, mentoring, professional development, and teacher recruitment should be improved.

The commission is also working with the state education department on a series of related initiatives that would provide bonuses for teachers willing to teach in financially strapped districts that cater to poor students, and on the establishment of six professional-development academies at colleges and universities.

"It is time that the higher education community takes on a leadership role," Ms. Handlin said.

Gov. Whitman, a Republican, has not yet reviewed the budget request, said Jackie Stevens, an education adviser to the governor.

Mrs. Whitman has backed several teacher-quality initiatives in the past few years, including one that mandated increasing the grade point average needed to obtain teacher certification from 2.5 to 2.75 on a 4-point scale, Ms. Stevens said.

'At the Forefront'

New Jersey is one of a handful of states "at the forefront" of changing the way educators are taught, hired, and retained, said Mildred J. Hudson, the chief executive officer of Recruiting New Teachers, a Belmont, Mass.-based group that promotes teacher recruitment and quality.

"What they're really trying to do is present a comprehensive approach to teacher-preparation programs," Ms. Hudson said. "They are really quite progressive."

Many in the New Jersey education community say that they are pleased with the commission's emphasis on teacher training, recruitment, and retention.

"The goals are very constant with what we are already doing," said Ada Beth Culture, the dean of the college of education and human services at Montclair State University in Upper Montclair. "This is an exciting opportunity and could be a very strong expression of New Jersey's commitment to teacher quality."

Vol. 20, Issue 13, Page 17

Published in Print: November 29, 2000, as N.J. Commission Requests Funding To Upgrade Teacher Education
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