Testing Teachers

Teacher's unions have long resisted the notion that it makes sense to test their members to see if they measure up.

The American Federation of Teachers has edged away from that stand a bit. It proposes national tests and tougher standards for those in college who want to enter the teaching ranks.

The federation, the nation's second-largest teachers union, sees this as a way of strengthening a profession that's under considerable fire today from school reformers - and that faces a big recruitment challenge as many of today's older teachers retire.

Without question, the training of new teachers needs improvement. Stronger preparation within the subject areas a person will teach is particularly important.

But two qualms: (1) Toughened education-school standards should not be used to fence out people entering the classroom by less-traditional avenues - for instance, those who want to try teaching later in life after years of experience in a field. (2) Better standards for new teachers aren't in themselves sufficient. Effective means of assessing the work done by current teachers are needed, too.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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