Originally created 03/12/98

Board unveils plan to improve teaching



ATLANTA -- The University System of Georgia would provide guarantees on teachers it graduates and make it easier for Georgians to join the profession as a second career under a proposal released Wednesday.

The University System Board of Regents unveiled a draft plan of action as part of its yearlong study aimed at strengthening the teaching profession.

The plan has nine principles, including the guarantee of principals' satisfaction, aggressive recruitment of top-caliber students into teaching, and an effort to end out-of-field teaching in Georgia.

"What we are trying to do is shift the emphasis to results," said Jan Kettlewell, assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs. "The effectiveness of our program should be judged not only on what the teacher candidate knows, but what the children can do."

Last fall, regents began studying how to improve the recruitment, training and retention of teachers.

Under the proposal released Wednesday, the university system would provide free additional training for any teacher within two years after graduation if a school district were dissatisfied.

"We don't need to send any students into a school when they're a dud," said Board Chairman S. William Clark of Waycross. "But we need to be fair to these people."

Chancellor Stephen Portch said he expects the number of teachers "taken back" by the system will be small.

"It will help us quantify" complaints about teachers, he said. "We will now know the number of teachers people feel are ill-prepared."

However, Bill Dahlberg, a board member from Stone Mountain, said the system probably won't get a true reading because not all administrators will want to identify failing teachers.

A similar problem developed in the early 1990s when the Georgia Department of Education collected yearly teacher evaluations that were supposed to be tied to raises. Virtually every teacher in the state received a good evaluation, and state officials acknowledged principals didn't want to hand out poor grades.

The draft principles also call for the system to guarantee graduates have sufficient knowledge in the areas they are teaching. The draft calls for skills including reading, demonstrating success in helping students from diverse backgrounds, and using technology to aid learning.

Teacher preparation would be the shared responsibility of schoolteachers and their professors in education and arts and sciences. Veteran teachers would have an ongoing responsibility to serve as mentors to beginners.

The proposal calls for the system to expand the number of certification programs offered to people seeking a second career in teaching. The system also would work with the Department of Education and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission to end to out-of-field teaching.

About two-thirds of physical science teachers, 49 percent of history teachers and 23 percent of mathematics teachers in Georgia do not have at least an academic minor in the subject they are teaching.

State Board of Education Chairman Johnny Isakson and Georgia schools Superintendent Linda Schrenko, who attended the release of the proposals Wednesday, urged regents to emphasize strongly the teaching of reading.

Forty percent of children who enter high school are not graduating on time, often because of poor reading skills, Mr. Isakson said.

Ms. Schrenko told regents that educators she talks to say prospective teachers need to learn how to manage classrooms -- particularly those with discipline problems. Prospective teachers also need a strong grounding in reading and math, and should obtain training in dealing with handicapped children, she said.

She applauded the plan's push to increase the number of second-career teachers.

"We would love to have more people who have retired from the military, from business ... to come into our schools and teach," Ms. Schrenko said.

Administrators should be required to teach at least occasionally, she said. Legislation mandating that didn't make it out of the state House Education Committee this year.