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EDUCATION REPORT – April 24, 2003: Teacher Certification - 2003-04-23

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

For many years American colleges and universities have prepared the nation’s teachers. Students who want to teach must study special subjects toward that goal. They work in public schools while being supervised by other teachers. They take state examinations. If they succeed, they are officially certified or approved to be public school teachers.

The Bush Administration now supports a new organization that seeks to expand certification. This group is called the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence. It says its new system will let good non-traditional teachers be certified if they meet its requirements. The Department of Education established the board last year. The goal is to remove barriers to getting more good teachers. In just a few years, American public schools will be educating three-million more children.

Recent college graduates can be considered for the new program. So can people in other jobs who want to become teachers. Others are retired people and currently uncertified public school teachers. Still others are teachers in private and special schools who seek official recognition of their skills.

A number of long-established education groups object to the new system. They say it will devalue the skills of teachers certified under the current system. Critics say teachers certified under the new system may lack important classroom skills.

But Education Secretary Rod Paige says the new process will make sure that nontraditional teachers are well prepared. He says the Administration’s education program requires this. People seeking to enter the program as beginning teachers must perform well on examinations. They also must gain preparation in the classroom.

The program’s next step is called master teacher certification. It recognizes excellent educators already working in schools. Teachers will take tests measuring their knowledge of subject material. They also must document the progress of their students.

One state, Pennsylvania, already has recognized the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence. Another state, New Hampshire, is considering approving the new certification process.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.