The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Statement by James A. Peyser on Reform of Educator Certification Regulations
November 28, 2000
Reform of the educator certification regulations is one of the last major pieces of education reform to be put into place. And contrary to the suggestions of some critics that we are rushing this reform, it is long overdue.
It has been seven years since passage of the Education Reform Act, which called for the establishment of alternative, district-based certification paths. It has been five years since the adoption of curriculum frameworks, outlining higher expectations for student knowledge and skill, which in turn has raised expectations for subject-matter knowledge and skill on the part of teachers. It has been two years since the Board of Higher Education recommended the establishment of new accountability measures for teacher preparation programs. And it has been a year since a discussion draft of these regulations was released for public consideration.
This last point deserves a bit more comment. Our standard operating procedure is to draft regulations, release them for a 2-3 month comment period, and then bring them back to the board for final adoption. In this case, given the complexity and magnitude of the undertaking, we released a concept paper last December and draft regulations in April, allowing six full months for formal comment. In addition to the public discussions that have taken place at Board of Education meetings, Department staff has also participated in several public discussions on the proposed reforms with the Joint Commission on Educator Preparation-which, I might add, endorsed most of the major recommendations before us today.
In short, this has been a prolonged and highly open process that has now run its course. All the interested parties have been thoroughly consulted and their voices heard. This does not mean that all their suggestions have been incorporated into the document. But there is no reason to believe that further discussion will yield a different outcome. Responsibility for drafting these regulations and making these policy decisions rests with the Department and this Board. We cannot delegate this responsibility to others.
There have been other concerns expressed that in our attempt to strengthen the subject-matter preparation of teachers, we have given short shrift to college-level instruction in pedagogy. I believe this criticism is overstated. The new regulations for the first time specifically require coursework in the teaching of reading for elementary and middle school teachers. The regulations continue to specify the minimum duration of the practicum for each certificate area. And the regulations state clearly the teaching competencies that will be expected of all teachers, including: the planning of curriculum, the planning and delivery of effective instruction, and classroom management. Seminars or courses covering these areas will be a required part of all teacher preparation programs, including those established for the alternative routes.
More important, however, is the fact that these regulations merely establish a framework. There is much more work that needs to be done to make these regulations fully operational. Specifically, guidelines must be established for district-based apprenticeship and induction programs. Protocols must be completed for evaluating the performance of student teachers and of practicing teachers at the initial and professional license levels. Regional training programs must be developed for alternative-route teachers. Protocols must be revised for the evaluation and approval of teacher preparation programs. And money must be appropriated to support the many mentors that will be needed to make this new system of certification work.
It is through these efforts that we will give meaning and effect to the pedagogical standards that are established in these regulations. The Commissioner and I are both committed to fully engaging the knowledge and experience of practicing educators as we move into this all-important implementation phase. The polarization between the Board and representatives of the field must end. And this is the place to start.
The document before you today is a dramatic improvement over the status quo and I urge Board members to give their support.