Educators-in-training get break

State proposal to increase requirements is altered

critics saw obstacle to city recruiting

Baltimore & Region

October 26, 2005|By LIZ BOWIE ... | LIZ BOWIE ...,SUN REPORTER

A proposal that would have made it difficult to operate in Maryland for Teach for America - a source of young teachers for Baltimore - was changed at the last minute yesterday before getting final approval from the State Board of Education.

The guideline would have required prospective Teach for America instructors to go through an eight-week internship before teaching in the fall. Because program participants already must complete five weeks of training during the summer, finishing both sessions would potentially have been a difficult task.

The board changed the provision to allow four to eight weeks of training, and state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said Teach for America's five-week program would be acceptable.

Critics said the guidelines, if passed without the changes, would have hindered city schools by making it more difficult to recruit talent in a time of teacher shortages.

The guidelines affected not only Teach for America candidates, but also those for the Baltimore City Teaching Residency, a program which helps professionals in midcareer in other occupations prepare for the classroom while they work toward earning teaching certificates. About one-third of the city's new teachers this year came from these alternative certification programs, including 204 from the teaching residency program.

The guidelines, which were developed during the past year, had been criticized by Greater Baltimore Committee President Donald C. Fry, who wrote a four-page letter to Grasmick last week saying he was "strongly opposed" because they created "needless obstacles" to bringing more teachers into the state.

Letters of opposition also came from Teach for America President Wendy Kopp, who started the program 15 years ago with the idea of attracting some of the brightest college graduates into teaching.

Teach for America has 3,500 teachers in 1,000 schools across the nation. Last year, 17,000 graduates applied for slightly more than 2,000 positions. Applicants this year included 12 percent of Yale University's senior graduating class and 8 percent of Harvard's and Princeton's.

Grasmick said the state board was not bowing to pressure from critics but was simply taking into account public comments received since the proposal was made in the spring.

After the vote yesterday, Fry said, "I don't think the amendment cures the problem completely." He pointed out that Teach for America and the residency program would still have to go through a review process to determine whether training was adequate. "We would like to see as many obstacles [as possible] eliminated to get good people in the classroom," he said.

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