Teachers complain, and rightly so, that they get no respect, even for a job well done. But restoring respect goes hand in hand with establishing accountability and public perceptions of competence.
Recent actions by the State Board of Education will make a big difference. In Maryland, as in many states, experienced teachers have virtually a lifetime license to teach, once they reach tenure. Renewing a state certificate is a routine matter, requiring a $10 fee every 10 years. Refusing a license renewal because of poor performance in the classroom is almost unheard of.
The new regulations require a satisfactory evaluation at least three years out of five, as well as a professional development plan demonstrating a teacher's intentions to keep up-to-date in the profession. And, in an improvement over the original proposal, the requirements approved by the state board also apply to licensed school administrators and specialists.
Even so, teachers unions were quick to reiterate their criticism of the proposals. We agree that evaluations should be conducted by people qualified to judge competence. Why not teams that include respected teachers? But much of the opposition to these reforms suggests more interest in protecting the status quo than in improving the education of Maryland's children. That's hardly a way to gain public respect.
New proposals for teacher training are also encouraging. A plan now awaiting public comment would strengthen the education of teachers by requiring an undergraduate degree in liberal arts, followed by a year-long internship in the classroom and a tough ** exam. By raising the requirements to enter the teaching profession, the board will help improve schools and, in the process, the respect accorded to teachers.
We commend State School Superintendent Nancy Grasmick, Board President Robert C. Embry Jr. and his colleagues. These reforms are good news for Maryland's children, for whom good )) teachers and good schools help make the difference between success and failure in life.