IN MARYLAND, two paths lead to teacher certification.
The standard way, and the route taken by virtually everyone entering the profession, is to earn state certification. These teachers must graduate from a state-approved teacher education program, pass a basic-skills test at the ninth- to 10th-grade level of difficulty and pass a second subject-matter test at early-college difficulty.
Maryland has the second-highest passing rate in the country on these tests, known as Praxis I and II, but in 1998-1999 half of teacher candidates failed the Praxis math exams and one-third failed the basic reading portion of the test, according to a study by Leadership Maryland.
Here's an example of a mathematics question on the test: "Riding on a school bus are 20 students in ninth grade, 10 in tenth grade, nine in eleventh grade and seven in twelfth grade. Approximately what percent of the students on the bus are in ninth grade?"
The second route to licensing is to earn National Board Certification, a designation imparted by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. These teachers undergo a yearlong series of performance-based assessments, which include portfolios, student work samples, videotapes and thorough analyses of classroom teaching and student learning.
This year, 42 Marylanders survived the demanding national board-certification process, which is designed to replicate the licensing procedures in other, more prestigious professions. That brings the number of "board-certified" Maryland teachers to 71, hardly a critical mass in a state with 50,000 public school teachers, but enough to produce a cadre of role models.
Fifteen of the newly board-certified Marylanders teach in the Baltimore area: Kristina L. Berdan and Jay M. Gillen in Baltimore City; Sandra L. Skordalos, Linda G. Popp and Michelle S. Razzi in Baltimore County; Melba B. Justice in Carroll County; Joel M. Leff and Sharon K. Grove in Harford County; and Beverly L. Schroeder, Kelly C. Davis, Diane A. Issel, Holly Kephart Smith, Robert Mitchell, Mary A. Teague and Hillary Sandberg in Howard County.
U.S. pupils don't fare well in international face-off
Maryland was one of 13 states whose students participated in the 1999 Third International Mathematics and Science Study-Repeat (TIMSS-R), a successor to a 1995 international comparison of science and math achievement.
Perhaps the state should not brag, because the news was not good.
American eighth-graders came in just above average, scoring about as well as students from Bulgaria, Latvia and New Zealand but behind peers from Australia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hungary, Britain, Canada and five other nations.
There was also bad news about instruction. Forty-one percent of U.S. eighth-graders had a math teacher with a degree in math, compared with an international average of 71 percent. Singapore and Chinese Taipei led the list in mathematics and science, respectively. Morocco and South Africa brought up the rear.
UMBC discovers name holds dubious distinction
The University of Maryland, Baltimore County has what marketers call a "branding problem." It's the only four-year university in the nation with "county" in its name. Here's a research university that sounds like a community college.
Officials are considering making its informal motto, "Honors University in Maryland," part of the official name, or cutting the words. UMBC would be UMBC alone, just as the college entrance test is the SAT - no longer an acronym. A rose by any other name ...