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Testing Teacher Candidates: The Role of Licensure Tests in Improving Teacher Quality
National Assessment of Educational Progress led the board to establish the new regulations that require regular and special education teachers at the early childhood and elementary levels to complete 12 semester hours (four courses) in specific reading content, such as language development, phonics, and reading assessment. Regular and special education teachers at the secondary level must complete six semester hours (two courses) in reading instruction.
Maryland has also sought to improve the quality of its teacher candidates through the establishment of a network of professional development schools (PDS) throughout the state. PDSs are a collaborative effort between a school system and a higher-education institution and are formed to increase the amount of time teacher candidates spend in the school and to intensify their training prior to licensure. In several models teacher candidates arrive in August and have a full-time internship in a school for the academic year. Being in the school for the entire academic year provides teacher candidates with the opportunity to participate in all aspects of a teacher’s life at school. Each school may have a unique emphasis, such as technology, career preparation, or reading. Classes for teacher candidates are taught in the school by resident teachers and faculty members (much like university teaching hospitals). PDSs are mostly sponsored by the state, with additional funding from school systems and higher education institutions. As of July 2000, there were 150 PDSs in Maryland, some of which are multisite. As a part of the state’s teacher incentive program, the state announced that an additional $1.2 million will be used to increase the number of PDSs in 1999–2000. The state’s goal is to have all preservice programs be performance based and include an extensive internship in a professional development school by the end of 2004.
Along with the required field experience, candidates have to also complete Praxis II before graduation. Some institutions require students in teacher education programs to only take Praxis II prior to graduation (Morgan State University), while others specify that graduation is contingent on passage of Praxis II (Coppin State University). Upon graduation from an approved teacher education program, students apply directly to the state for an initial license.
Alternative Certification Program
Most teachers in Maryland receive initial certification after completing undergraduate programs, but the state has encouraged all higher-education institutions to also establish programs for initial teacher certification at the postbaccalaureate level for career changers. The master’s program is typically a one-year full-time program. Numerous programs include two summer school sessions and two academic semesters, while others are part time and may take two to three years. Candidates entering the program must have a baccalaureate degree and appropriate content course work in the area in which they are seeking licensure.
Maryland has also established a resident teacher program in two school