Educators from Maryland colleges and universities yesterday began a polite effort in Annapolis to derail major portions of proposals to require undergraduates who want to become BTC teachers to major in the liberal arts or in the sciences.
Couched in measured remarks by college officials at a two-hour Annapolis hearing were fundamental disagreements with changes suggested by the state Teacher Education Task Force, a joint effort of Maryland's Department of Education and Higher Education Commission.
While several teachers spoke in support of the measure, critics suggested that the state would be creating rigid mandates that might harm, not enhance, the quality of the state's teachers.
Skeptical administrators also questioned whether the state was
willing to pay for further training of students.
Public school administrators have long expressed concern that new teachers have focused on methods of instruction rather than traditional subjects like history, math and languages.
In a report released on June 29, the panel recommended the elimination of the undergraduate major in education. Instead, prospective teachers should major in liberal arts or in the sciences, the panel said, and all should have better grounding in math and science. The task force also called for each new teacher to complete a year's worth of practical experience after receiving a bachelor's degree.
Some education faculty on college campuses see the proposal as an attempt to eliminate their departments.
"I do not believe that such a requirement would better prepare teachers," Dr. Karen R. Harris, a professor of special education at the University of Maryland College Park and a representative of the faculty senate there, said at yesterday's hearings. "Why would the state of Maryland want to throw away an undergraduate education program that is identified as exemplary?"
The National Education Association, the nation's largest teacher union, recently identified the UMCP special education department as one of a select group nationally, Dr. Harris said.
Karl K. Pence, the president of the Maryland State Teachers' Association, backed the plan, as did some public campus administrators.
William Hytche, president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, voiced reservations about the plan's affect on would-be black teachers but offered his campus as a venue for the pilot program.
After the hearing, state Higher Education Secretary Shaila R. Aery said she would take Dr. Hytche up on his offer and noted that William E. Kirwan, the president of Dr. Harris' campus, sat on an advisory panel that generated the task force's proposals. Dr. Aery said that the proposals would eventually appear in roughly their present form before the legislature, but that they might take longer to put in place than she first expected.
In response to criticism, Constance C. Stuart, chairwoman of the task force, pointed during the hearing to the success of the department of education at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, which does not offer the undergraduate major, as a sign that departments can flourish in the absence of majors.
The proposal for an extra year of training drew polite protest from several educators who said that it would cost too much, and drive away many people, especially blacks, from teaching at a time when more teachers are needed. Dr. Aery said she believes the legislature will pay for stipends to support teacher trainees after their undergraduate education.
The demand for an additional year of teaching under the watch of a mentor after graduation -- dubbed the "four plus one" by its critics -- would stifle the innovation needed on college campuses for true educational reform, said Joan Coley, provost of Western Maryland College.
"We agree that the education major could be phased out," Dr. Coley told the task force. "We do not agree that the only way to do that is a five-year experience and a single model."
"Set the goals. Set them high," she said. "Let us develop various means of meeting those goals, and hold us accountable."
Mrs. Stuart, the task force's chairwoman, said the year of training could occur at any time, depending on the student's initiative in completing the bachelor's degree.