- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Education Secretary Rod Paige has joined a rebellion against sole reliance on traditional teacher certification, saying teacher colleges should no longer have a monopoly over who is qualified to educate children.
Mr. Paige yesterday endorsed the new American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), whose mission is to certify subject experts, experienced professionals and military veterans as public school teachers, even if they don't have degrees in education.
"Some people will argue that this change is too radical, that it's too risky, that we should maintain the status quo," Mr. Paige said at a National Press Club event with board leaders. "Well, I agree that it's radical. It's radically better than the system we have now, a system that drives thousands of talented people away from our classrooms."
The ABCTE, started in the fall with a $5 million federal grant from the Department of Education, set off a firestorm of objections from education groups that argued that the approach was a "quick and easy" solution bent on "devaluing professional knowledge" and rushing teachers into the classroom.
Lisa Graham Keegan, chief executive officer of the reform-minded Education Leaders Council, rejects those assertions. She said the board's teacher-certification program will be "comprehensive" and is being developed by "expert thinkers" in the teaching profession.
Mrs. Keegan said the new certification approach includes a pre-service component, in full compliance with No Child Left Behind regulations, which ensures that teachers are classroom-ready with the proper content knowledge.
ABCTE's "passport certification" a two-stage test of teaching and subject-area knowledge would start this summer, she said, and the board's master teacher certification would be available next year.
"We have never positioned the American Board as a one-size-fits-all solution, and we welcome and expect the opportunity to engage in a discussion about new research and alternatives," Mrs. Keegan said. "The absence of this discussion and categorical comments that offer nothing but the status quo are the true disservice to students."
The Pennsylvania legislature was the first to recognize the ABCTE by statute in November. New Hampshire's House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill recognizing the certification process. That bill is now before the state's Senate. The National Education Association in New Hampshire also has endorsed it.
Mr. Paige said the new certification process was important to the federal requirement that all teachers of core subjects be "highly qualified" by 2006.
"In order to reach this goal, we're all going to need to do things differently. We're going to need to be innovative," the education secretary said.
"To achieve our goal of a quality teacher in every classroom, we need to … raise academic standards for new teachers so they are prepared to teach our children to high levels and remove the barriers that are keeping thousands of talented people out of the classroom," Mr. Paige said.
The ABCTE's "assessments maintain extremely rigorous academic standards for teachers," he said. "Individuals must be true scholars to earn this credential. And it provides an innovative option for individuals who would be turned off by the hoops and hurdles of traditional teacher preparation and certification programs.
"It focuses on what teachers need to know and be able to do in order to be effective, instead of the number of credits or courses they've taken. It demands excellence rather than exercises in filling bureaucratic requirements."
Mr. Paige said the ABCTE will enable talented college graduates from fields other than education to demonstrate their readiness to teach.

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