The 12-member State Board of Education has put on hold a regulation that would grant temporary teaching certificates to college graduates with liberal arts degrees but who do not have the requisite education courses.
The board adopted the rule Sept. 26, but yesterday it rescinded the regulation in order to seek more public comment on it.
The board also acted after the Maryland State Teachers Association, which opposes the rule, threatened to sue the panel on a procedural issue. MSTA said that when the regulation was adopted last week, the board made some changes in the rule that required prior notice to the public.
"When the MSTA raised concerns that not enough time had gone by for public input on resident teacher certificates, we decided to back up and take the time to have more public input," said Beth Briscoe-Campbell, spokeswoman for the school board.
"The state board wants to make sure we have the best proposal and the absolute best candidates to fill the teaching positions," she said.
Briscoe-Campbell said the board will again consider the regulation at its Dec. 19 meeting. She added that the panel was not pressured to change its mind but did so out of "a spirit of cooperation" with MSTA.
Jane R. Stern, president of the 36,000-member MSTA, said the group was pleased by the board's decision to rescind the regulation she said aims to produce "warm bodies to fill classrooms."
"I think it's a grandstand play in a way, to look as if the state board is doing something" positive for schools, Stern said. "But not every change is a reform. Sometimes it's a deform instead, and this falls under that category."
The regulation would have provided an alternative route to classrooms for teachers. In order to qualify for the resident teacher program, applicants would have to complete 90 clock hours of education courses and pass a national competency test.
The intent of the program is to improve the quality of teachers.
Stern, who has taught 25 years in the Montgomery County school system, said her group would continue to voice its opposition. She added, "Parents don't want unqualified teachers to teach their children."
The new regulation doesn't require new teachers to complete university work in pedagogy -- instruction in teaching methods -- which is simply "a bad idea," Stern said.
She believes the resident teachers wouldn't have the background and know-how to teach children, especially elementary students.
"It's like licensing college graduates to perform surgery without taking the course in medicine," Stern said.
She said the program is a "cheap fix" for areas, including Baltimore, that have teacher shortages.
But proponents disagree.
"We aren't just plugging bodies into the classrooms, but so education can take place," said Douglas J. Nielson, spokesman for Baltimore schools. "Ideally, of course, we'd love for every candidate that walks through the door to be certified. But that's not a reality."
In Baltimore, Nielson said there continues to be a shortage of special education and math and science teachers who can earn more in other school systems or in the private sector.
Nielson said technically there are no vacancies, but the school system can always use more science and math teachers. Recently, eight special education vacancies were filled by teachers who weren't certified in that area, he said.
Since the summer, the 108,000-student system has hired 300 new teachers for its 177 schools, Nielson said.
There are about 5,800 teachers in the system. Less than 300 of them are not certified, but are making efforts to become so, Nielson said. They may be short a few credits or their licenses have expired.
Stern, however, insists: "The answer to this [teacher shortage] is to improve the compensation and working conditions for teachers" and not to certify people who aren't qualified.