Paige Backs Reform in
Certification of Teachers
by George Archibald, The Washington Times, March 19, 2003
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Mr. Paige yesterday endorsed the new American Board for
Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), whose mission is to
certify subject experts, experienced professionals and military
veterans as public school teachers, even if they don't have
degrees in education.
"Some people will argue that this change is too radical, that
it's too risky, that we should maintain the status quo," Mr.
Paige said at a National Press Club event with board leaders.
"Well, I agree that it's radical. It's radically better than the
system we have now, a system that drives thousands of talented
people away from our classrooms."
The ABCTE, started in the fall with a $5 million federal grant
from the Department of Education, set off a firestorm of
objections from education groups that argued that the approach
was a "quick and easy" solution bent on "devaluing professional
knowledge" and rushing teachers into the classroom.
Lisa Graham Keegan, chief executive officer of the reform-minded
Education Leaders Council, rejects those assertions. She said
the board's teacher-certification program will be
"comprehensive" and is being developed by "expert thinkers" in
the teaching profession.
Mrs. Keegan said the new certification approach includes a
pre-service component, in full compliance with No Child Left
Behind regulations, which ensures that teachers are
classroom-ready with the proper content knowledge.
ABCTE's "passport certification" — a two-stage test of teaching
and subject-area knowledge — would start this summer, she said,
and the board's master teacher certification would be available
"We have never positioned the American Board as a
one-size-fits-all solution, and we welcome and expect the
opportunity to engage in a discussion about new research and
alternatives," Mrs. Keegan said. "The absence of this discussion
and categorical comments that offer nothing but the status quo
are the true disservice to students."
The Pennsylvania legislature was the first to recognize the
ABCTE by statute in November. New Hampshire's House of
Representatives unanimously approved a bill recognizing the
certification process. That bill is now before the state's
Senate. The National Education Association in New Hampshire also
has endorsed it.
Mr. Paige said the new certification process was important to
the federal requirement that all teachers of core subjects be
"highly qualified" by 2006.
"In order to reach this goal, we're all going to need to do
things differently. We're going to need to be innovative," the
education secretary said.
"To achieve our goal of a quality teacher in every classroom, we
need to ... raise academic standards for new teachers so they
are prepared to teach our children to high levels and remove the
barriers that are keeping thousands of talented people out of
the classroom," Mr. Paige said.
The ABCTE's "assessments maintain extremely rigorous academic
standards for teachers," he said. "Individuals must be true
scholars to earn this credential. And it provides an innovative
option for individuals who would be turned off by the hoops and
hurdles of traditional teacher preparation and certification
"It focuses on what teachers need to know and be able to do in
order to be effective, instead of the number of credits or
courses they've taken. It demands excellence rather than
exercises in filling bureaucratic requirements."
Mr. Paige said the ABCTE will enable talented college graduates
from fields other than education to demonstrate their readiness