College graduates will be able to teach in public schools in Maryland without the usual teacher training, under a new regulation approved by the State Board of Education.
The temporary teaching certificate would be issued under a two-year resident teacher program aimed at prospective teachers who did not study education in college.
The program is open to anyone with a bachelor's degree with a concentration in a discipline "appropriate to the assignment." The candidate must have maintained at least a "B" average in his major.
Applicants would be required to complete 90 clock hours worth of education-related classes, and pass certain national teaching tests before being hired by a local school district and receiving a certificate.
Once hired, those resident teachers would be eligible for a standard professional certificate after serving a one- to two-year residency under the supervision of a teacher/mentor and passing a professional knowledge test, among other requirements.
The program will include teachers in elementary, middle and secondary schools.
Supporters say the program will offer an alternative route into the classroom for college graduates who otherwise would have had to take extensive education courses.
"It gives local school systems the discretion to hire what they think is the best person for the job," said Robert C. Embry Jr., president of the state board.
Embry said he often receives complaints from talented college graduates who cannot get jobs as teachers because they do not hold education degrees.
But teachers' union officials blasted the new rule.
"It's incredible to us that when they are supposedly trying to improve education that they would saddle us with large numbers of unprepared people," said Jane Stern, president of the Maryland State Teachers Association.
Stern said the 90 hours of education courses are the equivalent of just two 3-credit courses at a college. By contrast, elementary school teachers have had to take up to 60 credits to be teachers, she said.
She also noted that resident teachers might lack important course work in the areas of child psychology, human development and special education.
Stern said her group is still weighing whether to challenge the board's action.
The new rule also drew criticism from Irene Dandridge, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.
"I don't believe that the clock hours are enough to teach somebody to teach, particularly on the elementary school level," she said.