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5-11-15 More Education and Related Issues in the News

State Eases Up On Tougher Standards for Teacher Training, Licensing…Christie administration heeds calls for slower implementation of some of its proposed changes

John Mooney | May 11, 2015


Three months after they were first proposed, the Christie administration’s voluminous revisions to the state’s teacher preparation and certification requirements are still being fine-tuned, with the state stepping back from a couple of the more aggressive changes.

The latest revisions were posted last week, in a lead-up to a special public hearing to be held May 20 before the State Board of Education.

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Administration Presentation of Updated Proposal for Teacher Certification and Preparation Requirements

Some of the changes to the original proposal presented in February pertain to requirements for prospective teachers in college or other teacher-preparation programs, as well as for those already in the profession.

For instance, the state’s proposal to require a full year of classroom experience for student teachers would not take effect until 2018-19, a year later than initially proposed.

In addition, performance tests for new teachers – which were to start for those graduating in 2016 -- wouldn’t happen until 2017.

In other areas, the administration is no longer seeking to require substitute teachers to hold a four-year college degree, a move that some feared would create a shortage of substitute teachers. The requirement will remain at 60 college credits.

And, in one of the most contested areas, the administration has agreed to require “alternate route” programs for teacher certification -- those outside college settings – to ultimately be accredited by authorized agencies, such as their university based peers.

A coalition of groups led by the state’s teacher education programs and its teacher unions had pressed for the changes to the first proposal, fearing the state was moving too fast on some and not providing enough protections with others.

Questions raised about proposed reforms in standards for both alternate-route and traditional college-level education programs

Yesterday, the president of that coalition applauded the administration’s receptiveness to those concerns.

“You can see that they really reflected on the various comments that were made by the stakeholder groups,” said Joelle Tutela, director of teacher education at Rutgers University-Newark and president of the New Jersey Association of College for Teacher Education.

“It really was the first time that we were seeing our voices being heard,” she said. “We are really grateful for that.”

Tutela said the extension of accreditation requirements to all programs was especially critical, as was delaying the student-teaching requirement.

“We’re all for more time in a clinical setting, but there are a lot of things that first need to be put in place,” she said.

Once the public hearing is held on May 20, the state board is expected to move the new regulations to the formal proposal stage at its June 3 monthly meeting


NJ.com - Rebirth of Gifted and Talented Program works to engage Trenton's best students

By Jenna Pizzi | For NJ.com The Times, Trenton
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on May 10, 2015 at 9:08 AM, updated May 10, 2015 at 9:09 AM

TRENTON – When Alisah Johnson saw that the Trenton School District was reviving its Gifted and Talented program at the beginning of last school year, she knew she had to enroll.

"I said, 'I need to be in that class,'" the bubbly sixth grader said.

As the first year of the program is coming to a close, Johnson and her fellow students said they are glad to have had the opportunity to learn more in classes with other students who are accelerated.

"It is just like regular school but it is more challenging," Johnson said. "We are not just learning our grade work, but we are learning seventh grade work too."

Johnson and about 60 of her fellow middle school students from around the district applied and were accepted to the Donald Shelton Gifted and Talented Middle School, which is named after a 17-year veteran of the school board.

This year and this class of students marks the first time in more than a decade the Trenton school district is offering a special accelerated program for gifted and talented students. The district's original program was a victim of budget cuts.

Stacey Reese, a science teacher in the program, said she sees a marked difference in the students involved in the program compared to other classes she teachers because of their voracity for learning.

"I have never seen kids who are so motivated and excited," said Reece. "It has changed the way I teach."

Reece said now she uses half the class time to teach the required curriculum and the other half to do hands-on project based learning.

On Wednesday her class was learning engineering techniques by building a bridge from different materials and them testing its strength by weighing it down.

"They are thinking like engineers," Reece said. "They run with it and they are excited, which makes me excited."

In their literature class, students in the gifted and talented program wrote a book, which will be compiled for them.

"I think they get a lot more enriched experiences," said Paula Bethea, principal at Joyce Kilmer Middle School where the gifted and talented program is housed.

Although some of the goals of the program have been stunted by budget strains in the last school year, Bethea said she has been able to supplement some of those losses with the school's existing partnerships and teachers.

The outcome, she said, has been the creation of a program that provides enriched experiences for students like those they would get at private schools in the area. Bethea said the program includes students who have re-enrolled in the Trenton School District from being home schooled and from charter schools.

"This is something that we can really have blossom," Bethea said.

Bethea said she hopes that eventually the gifted and talented program will spread to each of the schools because she can see how thinking about learning differently has positively impacted all of the teachers at Kilmer, even those who don't teach the gifted and talented students.

Jenna Pizzi may be reached at jpizzi@njtimes.com. Follow her on Twitter @JennaPizzi. Find The Times of Trenton on Facebook.