A proposal to have Maryland's future teachers concentrate more on sciences or liberal arts and less on teacher training has drawn both praise and skepticism.
The proposal, designed to ensure that teachers have a firm grasp of their subject matter, would add a fifth year to every student's course of study and scrap undergraduate majors in education at state colleges.
Under the plan, presented this week by a task force to the Maryland Higher Education Commission, undergraduates considering a teaching career would forgo teacher-training courses and pursue a major in the sciences or liberal arts.
After graduation, students would go through a yearlong master's degree program of instruction in teaching techniques and on-the-job training in school classrooms.
The proposal would add to the education costs of teachers, who would face an extra year of schooling.
Fees and tuition at Towson State University, for example, will reach about $2,800 for full-time students next year.
tTC Several education students at Towson State said yesterday that they liked the idea of a fifth year devoted exclusively to teaching and education instruction.
"Everything about teaching would be presented to you without you having to worry about a history elective," said Patrick Bathras, a 22-year-old senior studying elementary education. "You wouldn't have to worry about papers. You could just concentrate on your teaching."
Delina Scarboro, a 23-year-old senior from Dundalk, said she has forgotten teaching tools that she was taught early in college.
"My first year I had educational psychology," Ms. Scarboro said. "That was a real important class, and I feel that a lot of that has gone to waste."
But it may not be wise to abandon the four-year teacher's program, which has worked fine for many teachers, said Albert W. Tucci, the supervisor of human resources for the Howard County school system.
"I've been hiring teachers for a number of years. There's no one way to train them," Dr. Tucci said.
"We seem to go like a pendulum, going from excessive content to excessive methodology," said Dr. Tucci, who has spent 20 years in the education personnel field.
The mandatory five-year program was designed by higher education Secretary Shaila R. Aery and state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and echoes a proposal made more than two years ago by Dr. Aery.
The task force recommendation would mean a significant overhaul for many of the state's two dozen, four-year education programs. But the plan has the support of officials at both Towson State and the University of Maryland at College Park, two of the state's leading teacher-training institutions.
Most of the 1,500 students in Towson's four-year teacher program already take more than four years to get their degrees in part because of the heavy demands of a year of student teaching, said Dr. James B. Binko, dean of the college of education and a member of the task force.
Dr. Binko predicted that the proposal, which includes long-range continuing education for teachers, would produce better-trained, more mature instructors.
"To become a good teacher, you have to keep growing," Dr. Binko said. "You don't prepare someone in four years."
Some of his students, though, wondered if their master's degrees and five years of study would entitle them to higher starting salaries. "If everybody has a master's degree, what's the difference [in pay] between a master's and a bachelor's?" said Mr. Bathras, the Towson senior.
Dr. Binko said some teacher-education faculty oppose the change. But, he said, there was also opposition many years ago when teacher-training programs were expanded from two to four years.
The task force proposal, a product of 13 months of study, would put Maryland in the company of several states that have abandoned undergraduate teaching degrees. Maryland school systems would still be free to hire graduates of four-year training programs at out-of-state colleges.
The higher education commission will hold public hearings on the proposal before voting on it next year.
The proposal must also be approved by the state Board of Education and the governing boards of the colleges that offer teacher training.