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Curriculum

President of Alternative-Certification Group Resigns

By Bess Keller — September 20, 2005 3 min read

The founding president of a group that offers teacher certification based on results from standardized tests resigned last week, as board members called for redoubling efforts to woo states into accepting the credential.

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Kathleen A. Madigan will step down as president of the group, the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, at the end of this month but will serve as its senior adviser for the next six, and continue as a member of the group’s board, said Anthony J. Colón, the board chairman.

Ms. Madigan has led the nonprofit organization almost since it got started as a project of the National Council for Teacher Quality with a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 2001. She said last week that it was “an incredibly challenging decision” to depart, but the recent death of her mother had shifted her priorities.

She leaves the organization in “solid” condition, she said, citing “spectacular” customer service that has signed up and is advising more than 600 candidates for the credential since last winter and a “remarkable” staff that has grown to 29 people.

The Washington-based board won a second, $35 million grant from the Education Department in 2003 and is no longer part of the teacher-quality council.

Members of the group’s board praised Ms. Madigan, a former executive for an education management company and education school administrator, for overseeing the development of what they described as technically sound and rigorous tests. The exams, which are at the heart of the ABCTE’s streamlined credentialing system, currently cover six teaching fields and teaching methods.

“Kathy’s primary accomplishment has been getting these tests done very well in terms of content, standards, administration,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., an ABCTE board member and the president of the Thomas E. Fordham Foundation in Washington.

No Rush to Acceptance

On the other hand, the product has not yet found much of a market.

Only some 80 candidates have to date taken the tests and earned the certification, called Passport to Teaching, largely because the organization has been able to persuade just five states to accept the credential. Four of the states require more than passing the tests to secure a full license to teach, and Utah allows the test only for mathematics teachers.

“You can say you ought to have more states as members and recruited more prospective teachers,” acknowledged board member Lisa Graham Keegan, the former head of the Education Leaders Council, founded as a conservative-leaning alternative to the Council of Chief State School Officers. “But you can’t go anywhere without rock-solid tests.”

“We would have liked to have had [more prospective teachers] in the pipeline,” agreed Mr. Colón, the board chairman, “but that’s not the direct result of Dr. Madigan not doing something.”

Board members said that one reason for the slow going is the fierce opposition of teachers’ unions and traditional teacher education programs, which successfully rallied in opposition to the credential in California a year ago.

Several board members said they wanted the group’s next leader to go full steam ahead in winning acceptance among state officials, those who hire teachers, and prospective teachers themselves.

“We’ve made a good start on marketing,” said board member Lewis E. Solmon, the president of the Teacher Advancement Program Foundation, which tries to reshape teaching careers and teacher pay. “I’d probably like to see someone [take over as president] . . . who’s had some experience in advocating for alternative kinds of programs.”

The ABCTE’S chief operating officer, David W. Saba, will lead the organization until a new president is named.

Mr. Colón said members had not yet discussed the search for Ms. Madigan’s replacement.

A version of this article appeared in the September 21, 2005 edition of Education Week as President of Alternative-Certification Group Resigns

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