Teaching of teachers may change

June 29, 1994|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Sun Staff Writer

The traditional route from college to a teaching career in Maryland would change radically under an ambitious plan requiring candidates to spend a school year training in public schools, then pass tough tests and assessments to earn certification.

The plan, presented yesterday to the state Board of Education by a task force, would eliminate the traditional, four-year education degree within five to six years.

Instead, prospective elementary teachers would have to earn an undergraduate degree in liberal arts, with an emphasis on math and science, and high school teaching candidates would need a degree in the subject they plan to teach. Classroom training -- up to seven months longer than and much more demanding than most current requirements -- would begin only after candidates earn bachelor's degrees.

Ralph Fessler, a Johns Hopkins University professor who headed the 21-member task force, said the changes were designed to ensure a solid grounding in teachers' subjects while bridging the gap between academe and the real world.

"What this plan will do is give teacher candidates living laboratories where they'll work with real kids and real teachers," said Dr. Fessler, director of Hopkins' Division of Education.

The task force's 37-page report, "Redesign of Teacher Education in Maryland," goes to the state Higher Education Commission today. It will be the subject of public hearings this summer, and the commission and state board, both of which commissioned the panel, could take action in the fall.

The plan already has many key supporters, including state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, Higher Education Secretary Shaila R. Aery and most state school board members. But the state legislature must include money next year to begin the effort with teacher training programs at five to eight public schools.

Each training site, with about 20 students, would cost at least $200,000, the report estimates. But that excludes proposed stipends of $12,000 per teacher intern for the year of training.

Though the proposal has received strong support at many Maryland colleges and universities, not everybody shared the enthusiasm.

"The thing we really object to is a single model for teachers' education," said Doran Christensen, president of the Maryland Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, representing 20 public colleges and universities.

Dennis Hinkle, dean of Towson State University's College of Education, welcomed the proposal, saying it would build essential bridges between universities that educate teachers and school systems where those teachers work.

"This is one of the really important things that our public school friends have told us for years -- that we have to really get a lot more involvement of our students in public schools," he said.

All teaching programs now include a classroom teaching component -- typically eight to 15 weeks -- but many teachers wish they had received more practical training, state officials said.

Candidates would train under the guidance of "mentoring teams" consisting of college faculty and teachers at the host school -- part of partnerships between universities and colleges and individual school districts throughout Maryland.

The intensive, yearlong training would stress proven teaching methods, motivational techniques and ways to make subjects interesting and meaningful.

To get a teaching license, candidates would have to pass a tough new exam, which has yet to be devised. They also would have to present portfolios including videos of their teaching, examples of lesson plans, writing samples, mentor evaluations and more traditional assessments of their classroom work.

Under current licensing requirements, beginning teacher candidates typically must complete four years of college, work as interns and pass the National Teachers Examination. The new tests would be much harder, according to the report, prepared after more than a year's study by the task force.

About 2,000 students a year earn education degrees from Maryland colleges and universities.

The report also calls for a new master's program that would combine education courses with practical classroom experience. Graduate students would complete a 15-month program, including two summers of college classes, and a full school year of teaching.

It urges continuing studies and applied research to overcome weaknesses and build on strengths. Too often, the report said, professional development for teachers consists merely of attending occasional seminars and reading journals.

Hopkins is testing the plan's recommendations in an experiment between the university and two Howard County elementary schools, where 20 Hopkins students began training this week for yearlong teaching internships.

Maryland's proposal includes numerous elements of efforts to improve teacher education in other states. In a trend that began more than two decades ago when California eliminated the teacher education major, other states recently have altered the teaching of teachers.

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