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Alaska's teacher certification system needs to be based
on a framework of standards and performance
By Roger Sampson
Alaska Commissioner of Education & Early Development


March 01, 2005

In response to an opinion piece by Bill Bjork, president of NEA-Alaska, that has run in several Alaska newspapers, I want to thank the many Alaska public school teachers who have served on committees and otherwise assisted the State Board of Education & Early Development to improve student achievement in our schools.

The numbers of those educators must now number well over a thousand since our efforts began in 1992 to create a system of schools based on high standards, quality performance and excellent results. So I'm thanking educators on behalf of the state education boards that have served Governors Murkowski, Knowles and Hickel.

We have asked many teachers and other educators to step forward to help us. Those who did demonstrated their interest in improving the quality of teachers who teach our children. They know that quality instruction translates into real gains in academic achievement.

The Department of Education and State Board of Education & Early Development have the responsibility of licensing teachers in Alaska. It is reasonable and responsible that the licensing process requires that new applicants can demonstrate content knowledge and deliver that knowledge effectively to our children. The performances are based on the Alaska professional teacher content and performance standards adopted by the state board in 1994 and amended in 1997.

The proposed system requires only new teachers to complete the performance review. The system provides the added benefit for teachers to meet the Highly Qualified Teacher requirements set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. This opportunity can help thousands of Alaska teachers meet the Highly Qualified requirement by the 2006 deadline.

The proposed system has gone though many revisions over the past year as a result of constructive feedback from teachers, administrators and school board members across the state. I have great confidence in the skills and commitment of Alaska's teachers. This system supports continuous professional growth around professional standards.

Many teachers have offered thanks for moving a standards-based certification system forward that strengthens public confidence and provides another route to meeting the NCLB Highly Qualified requirements.

I clearly and carefully differentiate the leadership of NEA/Alaska from its membership because of the many fine teachers who have helped us reform various parts of Alaska's school system. These educators have served on committees, as spokespeople and as leaders to advance school improvement. They have developed academic standards for students, exams for children to measure whether children are meeting those standards, standards for teachers, standards for administrators, standards for schools and more. The Association of Alaska School Boards has adopted standards for school boards. The Alaska PTA has provided parents and educators with training based on the National Standards for Parent Involvement.

The state education board also is demonstrating its commitment to improving teacher quality in other ways. Among them, we started this year a statewide program where some of Alaska's most effective teachers are mentoring 367 teachers new to our classrooms. This effort is aimed at increasing in two years the effectiveness of mentored teachers in what otherwise would take five to eight years of teaching alone without a mentor.

A next logical step in our efforts is to change Alaska's teacher certification system so that it, too, is based on a framework of standards and performance.

Related Viewpoint:

letter Proposed teacher licensure system is flawed By Bill Bjork - AK - USA



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