Teacher-requirement study ordered

October 27, 2004|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick ordered a review yesterday of the requirements to teach in Maryland classrooms, with an eye toward making it easier to recruit experienced professionals from other careers.

Grasmick's spur-of-the-moment decision to appoint a study group came after the president of the state school board complained that Maryland's teaching standards are uneven - and could discourage the career-changers needed to ease serious shortages in math, special education and science.

State education officials have suggested expanding a program that allows professionals to pursue a teaching career and collect full pay while they work to become certified. But board members said the proposal does not go far enough.

Only 500 people have participated since the program's inception 12 years ago, significantly fewer than in other states. Alternative programs have gained popularity nationwide in the past few years but continue to face resistance from unions and teacher colleges.

One obstacle in Maryland is that prospective candidates must make arrangements individually with local school districts. Grasmick wants to broaden the program. Prospective teachers with at least nine semester hours toward certification could begin teaching immediately.

But Edward L. Root, the board president, called such attempts "a patch on a blown-out tire." Traditional teacher training is burdened with state mandates and other rules, he said. As a result, business employees, retired military personnel and others are often turned off.

Alternative programs, however, can be "pretty skimpy," Root noted. The state initially planned to require six hours of education coursework, then boosted it to nine.

Several of Root's colleagues agreed more needs to be done to get top-notch people in the classroom. The board did not act on the program expansion.

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