State Journal

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Hurry Up and Wait

A year after Illinois passed a law requiring beginning teachers to pick up additional training to stay on the job, those instructors have only limited options for fulfilling that mandate.

School districts and state officials have been slow to set up the professional- development programs, particularly ones that provide mentoring and training for new teachers, partly because of shortfalls in state funding and personnel.

As a result, state officials are scrambling to come up with alternatives for teachers who need to move from "initial" to "standard" certification, a requirement that the first group of teachers across the state must meet by next July 1.

"It's very frustrating to teachers," said Gail Purkey, a spokeswoman for the Illinois affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. Beginning teachers, she said, deserve mentoring and induction programs "in every school district."

Last year, Illinois passed a law giving teachers with initial teaching documents several options for securing the standard credential—or else face the loss of their state certification.

The options included completing a state-approved program of induction and mentoring, typically run by school districts; finishing several hours of graduate coursework; or earning an advanced degree in an education-related field.

But several of those options, particularly the induction and mentoring programs and the establishment of coursework at universities, are still being developed, according to an Oct. 22 state report.

State officials have no formal estimate of how many teachers are affected by the lack of programs. Some 7,000 Illinois teachers today are working with initial certificates.

Last month, members of the Illinois state board of education and state schools Superintendent Robert E. Schiller said they would consider seeking legislation during the state's veto-override session this month to waive the requirements for teachers facing the 2004 deadline, or at least delay the requirements.

"We will work with the teachers' unions, the General Assembly, and others to develop long-term solutions to this problem," Mr. Schiller, who took office last year, said in a written statement.

— Cavanagh

Vol. 23, Issue 10, Page 22

Published in Print: November 5, 2003, as State Journal

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