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Union calls for teacher certification exam

Published December 3, 2012 5:14 pm

Education • Proposal says schools operate on "sink or swim" system that's bad for everyone.
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Washington • Schoolteachers should have to pass a stringent exam — much like the bar exam for lawyers — before being allowed to enter the profession, one of the nation's largest teachers unions said Monday.

The proposal from the American Federation of Teachers calls for a tough new written test to be complimented by stricter entrance requirements for teacher training programs, such as a minimum grade point average.

"It's time to do away with a common rite of passage into the teaching profession, whereby newly minted teachers are tossed the keys to their classrooms, expected to figure things out, and left to see if they and their students sink or swim," said AFT President Randi Weingarten, calling that system unfair to students and teachers alike.

The proposal, released Monday as part of a broader report on elevating the teaching profession, calls for a new test to be developed by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The nonprofit group currently administers the National Board Certification program, an advanced, voluntary teaching credential that goes beyond state standards.

There is no single national standard for teacher certification, although the federal government does ask states to meet certain criteria to be eligible for federal funding.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan commended the proposal, describing it as part of a broader push to raise the bar for teachers and enable schools to predict a teacher's potential for success in the classroom.

"Too many new teachers enter our schools feeling unprepared. We shouldn't tolerate that in a profession so important to our country's future," Duncan said in a statement.

The union's executive council will consider whether to approve the report at a February meeting. Other teachers unions, such as the National Education Association, have yet to weigh in on the proposal. —

Five states to add 300 hours a year at some schools

Five states will experiment with giving students additional instruction and other support by adding 300 hours a year of teaching time to the school year, officials announced Monday.

The program, starting next year in some schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee, is designed to increase student achievement and make U.S. education more competitive globally, a goal of the Obama administration.

The three-year pilot program will affect almost 20,000 students in 40 schools over the next three years, with the hope of including more schools down the road. Educators and parents will decide whether to lengthen the school day or add days to the school calendar or both.

"I'm convinced the kind of results we'll see over the next couple of years, I think, will compel the country to act in a very different way," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday.

Los Angeles Times