Teaching Profession

Alternative Teacher-Licensing Exam Has Setback in Pa.

By Bess Keller — January 28, 2004 2 min read
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One of the two states that had agreed to accept a series of national tests as the sole basis for teacher licensing appears to have reversed itself on the issue.

At least for the time being, Pennsylvania is requiring candidates who have passed the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence exams to enroll in state-approved education programs and complete internships under its auspices before receiving standard state certification.

That’s a far cry from the streamlined entry into the teaching profession promised by the ABCTE, which said Pennsylvania had adopted the tests for licensing in November 2002. And, indeed, the state board of education seemed originally to approve the tests for that purpose.

Other Requirements

Pennsylvania is one of just two states that have embraced the ABCTE system. Idaho followed Pennsylvania’s lead last fall.

What’s clear now, however, is that aspiring new teachers who might have envisioned taking the board’s tests and receiving a Pennsylvania license without necessarily having to take courses or enroll in college-level teacher preparation won’t be able to go that route.

“We’re maintaining that there has to be an internship completed before a person can get” standard certification, said Brian Christopher, a spokesman for the state department of education.

The leadership in the department has changed since the state appeared willing to accept the ABCTE. Secretary of Education Vicki L. Phillips was appointed a year ago by Democratic Gov. Edward G. Rendell. He succeeded Gov. Mark S. Schweiker, a Republican.

Mr. Christopher said the role that the board’s tests might play in licensing is the subject of “ongoing discussions” between representatives of the ABCTE and state education officials.

No Further Applications

For its part, the ABCTE has stopped accepting applications from candidates seeking certification in Pennsylvania.

“We look forward to reopening the application period again” after March 31, says a notice on the Washington-based group’s Web site.

But an ABCTE spokeswoman denied that the change had to do with the discussions between the ABCTE and state education officials. “The reason is really and truly about our capacity to serve the candidates whose applications we’re receiving properly,” said Buffy DeBreaux-Watts, the group’s director of marketing and outreach.

Ms. DeBreaux-Watts said that more than 100 people nationally have signed up for the tests, which were administered for the first time, in some subjects and at some levels, in August. The next test administration is set for next month, she said.

She did not know whether there had been candidates for Pennsylvania certification in the first group of test-takers, but state education officials said no one yet had been granted a standard license on the basis of the tests.

From the beginning, the ABCTE has faced an uphill battle against teachers’ unions and schools of education, which say passing tests is not enough to qualify teachers for the classroom. The group has, however, won support from the U.S. Department of Education, which favors opening new routes into the classroom.

The Education Department recently gave ABCTE $35 million, which will allow it to offer a “virtual” mentoring program for novice educators, and help underwrite master-teacher certification and subject-area exams. (“Critics Question Federal Funding of Teacher Test,” Oct. 8, 2003.)

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A version of this article appeared in the January 28, 2004 edition of Education Week as Alternative Teacher-Licensing Exam Has Setback in Pa.

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