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State Eases Up On Tougher Standards for Teacher Training, Licensing

Christie administration heeds calls for slower implementation of some of its proposed changes

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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.

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.

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.

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