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3-5-15 Education Issues in the News - Teacher Preparation NJDOE Rules Proposal Discussion

NJ Spolight - HOW STATE'S TEACHERS GET TRAINED, LICENSED COMES UNDER BOARD’S SCRUTINY…Questions raised about proposed reforms in standards for both alternate-route and traditional college-level education programs


The Christie administration’s plans for reforming the way teachers are trained and licensed for the classroom continued to hit speed bumps yesterday, with a variety of groups and educators raising concerns before the State Board of Education.

  • Would doubling the classroom time required for student-teachers hurt more than help?


Proposed Professional Standards Code

Proposed Educator Preparation Code

Administration Releases New Code for Teacher-Training Alternate Route

  • Should the popular “alternate route” program be held to the same standards as college-based programs, and how so?
  • Who should be the final arbiter of program quality in the first place?

The public hearing was the first in what the administration said will be a lengthy review process before the state board. The state’s point man on the issue said there is much fine-tuning to do.

“This is not about disparaging the alternate route or the traditional route,” said Assistant Education Commissioner Peter Shulman. “This is about raising the bar for everybody, and getting the most for kids.”

The state’s reform proposal is voluminous, revising and rewriting large swaths of the state’s regulations pertaining to teacher certification, induction and retention.

Among the most notable proposed changes is lengthening the classroom time for student teachers from one semester to two semesters, expanding the alternate route to require two full years of training, and requiring substitute teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree.

For each of these issues, as well as others, there were a host of questions and concerns raised yesterday, as close to two dozen advocates and officials – many of them from teacher colleges -- spoke before the board.

For the colleges, many of the questions had to do with the standards for alternate route teacher certification. The approach supplies as many as one-fifth of all new teachers in the state each year through streamlined on-the-job training.

Launched in the mid-1980s and one of the first of its kind, New Jersey’s program was meant to encourage people in mid-career or outside the usual teacher-education track to enter the classroom.

But as it grew to provide as many as 40 percent of new teachers in some years, it has also been plagued by a wide disparity in the quality of the programs themselves.

The administration said its aim is to strengthen the alternate-route standards, doubling the required time for on-the-job training to two full years. It would also more than double, from 24 to 50 hours, the time of training required during the summer before entering the classroom.

At the same time, however, the proposed reforms would also not require national accreditation of the alternate-route programs, while the state commissioner would have the authority to unilaterally approve new ones.

“By not requiring national accreditation for alternate-route providers, the department continues to endorse two categories of teacher-preparation programs,” said Ana Maria Schuhmann, former dean of Kean University’s teacher education program.

“The primary goal of teacher accreditation is to improve learning of all … students,” she said. “I believe we want this for all of our students in New Jersey, not just for those whose teachers have been prepared by accredited (college-based) programs.”

The discussions revived the debates of decades past over the value of the alternate-route path. Not only has the route provided a large number of teachers to the system, but it has also become an employment pipeline for such national programs as Teach for America.

Some of the concerns raised yesterday came from representatives of the vocational and technical schools, which pull many of their teachers from the ranks of industry.

“The most important factor for (career and technical education) teacher success is industry experience,” said Judy Savage, executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools.

“Anything that limits eligibility or extends the process will make it harder to recruit good candidates and could ultimately create a shortage of CTE teachers in certain areas,” she said.

Board members also pushed back on some of the proposed alternate route changes, while others questioned whether enough was done to improve the teaching credentials of professors in the colleges and universities. Among the proposed changes is requiring that those instructors themselves hold teaching licenses.

Shulman, the assistant commissioner, said the concerns and questions being raised will be taken into consideration, and that more changes will be made before the final version of the proposed teacher-training reforms is brought before the state board.

But he also said that the original impetus of the changes was simple: “We hear all the time from principals and administrators that they can’t find enough teachers who are ready for the classroom.


Star Ledger - Are two semesters of student teaching too much? N.J. college officials say yes

Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on March 04, 2015 at 6:22 PM, updated March 04, 2015 at 7:38 PM

TRENTON — New Jersey colleges and universities say prospective teachers could benefit from more time in the classroom. But they don't like the state's proposal to mandate an extra semester of student teaching.

Representatives from schools across the state testified before the state Board of Education today, expressing concern about a proposal that would extend the student teaching requirement from one semester to two.

"I believe the proposed regulation would have a devastating effect on our program," said Todd Kent, associate director of Princeton's teacher preparation program.

Kent, along with officials from other schools, said the extra semester of student teaching would make it almost impossible for students to graduate in four years. At Princeton, students would be hard pressed to balance two consecutive semesters of student teaching with the completion of their senior thesis, he said.

"It would essentially eliminate an undergraduate option at Princeton," Kent said.

The proposed new rules come as New Jersey is set to reauthorize its regulations for teacher preparation and certification, part of of scheduled review that must be completed by the end of 2015.

Instead of approving the current regulations, the Department of Education last monthunveiled plans to increase requirements to become a teacher. In addition to the student teaching requirement, the proposed changes include requiring future substitute teachers to have earned a bachelor's degree and extending programs for non-teachers transitioning to careers in education from one year to two.

Most of today's public testimony, however, focused on the proposed changes to student teaching.

In February, the state proposed raising the current requirement of one semester to two, requiring teacher candidates to complete an entire academic year of student teaching. Students would also have to be exposed to an environment with special education students.

After hearing previous complaints, the state announced this morning it's already tweaked its proposal.

Assistant Education Commissioner Peter Shulman said students could now fulfill the requirement by student teaching first in the spring semester and then again in fall. And the state also said students could divide the required 14 hours a week student teaching in the first semester over more than two days.

But the proposal is still too inflexible, said Tamara Lucas, acting dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Montclair State University. Low-income students who need to work part-time jobs may be discouraged and eventually dissuaded from pursuing degrees in education, she said.

Officials from Rutgers, The College of New Jersey, Seton Hall, Rider, Monmouth, Rowan, Georgian Court and William Paterson also expressed concerns about the changes, which would take effect in fall 2017 under the proposal.

"Why is there a need to micromanage any aspect of these field placements?" said Jeff Passe, dean of TCNJ's school of education.

Shulman said the changes were proposed to raise the bar for its teacher candidates.

Julia Albretsen, a junior at TCNJ and vice president of the New Jersey Education's pre-service members, shared the same concerns as the college administrators. But she said aspiring teachers can benefit from more time in the classroom and especially from being exposed to a special education environment.

"I believe that pre-service educators do their best learning hands on and in the field," she said.

The NJEA has recommend the state delay any changes to the student teaching requirement until at least 2018 so students have more time to prepare.

The state board will not vote on the proposal until May at the earliest, allowing more time for discussion among stakeholders, Shulman said. 

Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClarkFind NJ.com on Facebook