View Point

Saturday, February 6, 1999

Raising the bar
for teachers

By Randy Hitz


THE key to improving education is improving the quality of teaching that takes place in every classroom. Research confirms this common sense notion and, according to national polls, the public understands this and sees the goal of cultivating well-qualified teachers as a top priority.

Some new initiatives are taking place in Hawaii to address this goal. A new set of standards for teachers was recently developed by the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board and approved by the governor. These standards are performance based and are among some of the best in the nation.

The Department of Education will be held accountable for employing teachers who meet these standards, and teacher preparation programs will be held accountable to prepare all future teachers to meet them.

The DOE and HTSB have also recently entered into a new partnership with the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, the only national accrediting body for teacher education.

This partnership will encourage teacher education programs in Hawaii to seek national accreditation. At the same time, teacher education programs will be required to ensure that all future teachers meet the Hawaii teacher standards.

It is altogether appropriate that teacher education programs be held to the highest levels of the profession. Several of the programs in Hawaii, including the College of Education at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, are beginning work toward achieving national accreditation.

A third initiative is national certification for teachers, which is relatively new. At last count there were just over 1,800 nationally certified teachers in the country.

The national standards are very high and the process for obtaining accreditation is rigorous. Fewer than one-third of applicants are certified in their first attempt. To date, no teacher from Hawaii has even applied for national certification.

The College of Education, DOE, Hawaii State Teachers Association, HTSB and Hawaii Business Roundtable are cooperating to encourage and assist local teachers to obtain their national certifications.

We believe that doing so communicates to all teachers a commitment to high standards, and rewards excellence in teaching. We expect that nationally certified teachers will serve as leaders and role models.

Measuring excellent teaching is quite complicated so the assessment process for national certification is time-consuming and expensive.

The cost for applying is $2,000. Some states assist teachers with this fee. Others have decided to reward successful applicants with bonuses ($10,000 in California) or salary increases (7 percent to the base salaries of teachers in North Carolina).

A small grant from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and support from the Hawaii Business Roundtable will enable us to provide assistance to the first teachers in Hawaii who wish to seek national certification. Finding some way to reward successful applicants is vital.

Ido not mean to imply that there are not many wonderful teachers in Hawaii's public schools. I have visited many campuses and have seen first-hand some outstanding teaching. I was also privileged to be part of the committee that selected Hawaii's teacher of the year. This was a most difficult task given the large number of excellent candidates.

However, all teachers and teacher educators can be held to higher standards. Of course, this implies that they will need the support to meet those standards. Raising the bar is of little value if teachers do not have access to quality education, have time to reflect on their teaching, or if the school environment (e.g. large class size, poor facilities, outdated equipment) is stifling.

Such support, establishing high standards and helping teachers meet those standards are the best ways to ensure improvement in education. Our children deserve no less than the best teachers we can provide.

Randy Hitz is the dean of the College of
Education at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.

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