Tougher Requirements Proposed for NJ Teachers, Subs

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The New Jersey Department of Education has proposed a revision to their teacher requirements that would impose additional student teacher training time and require higher standards for its substitutes.

The update would only affect future students looking to pursue a teaching degree through a four-year institution and future substitute teachers, as well as those participants who are transitioning into a teaching position from alternative routes, such as Teach for America.

“We need to make sure the next generation, the next 150,000 teachers in New Jersey are prepared,” Assistant Education Commissioner Peter Shulman said after presenting the proposed changes. “By simply thinking about preparing them in a similar manner that we have prepared them before, I don’t think we are advancing the conversation.”

Shulman went on to say that the current requirements in New Jersey were not strict enough and that it was too easy to find a spot inside a classroom in the state.  This is especially true for substitutes and teachers coming from out-of-state.

The proposal would double the student teaching requirements for students in an education program at a four-year institution.  Students now must complete one semester of student teaching; the proposal would increase that to an entire year.  In addition, they would need to teach in two different school settings and spend some of that time with special education students.

Recently the GPA requirement for students in a teaching program was raised from 2.75 to 3.0.  Those students must now also pass a teacher performance exam.

“It’s having a higher bar initially, having a more aligned clinical base preparation and then having a higher bar before I get certified,” Shulman said.

Shulman would like to see changes made to the alternative-route programs available in New Jersey.  He believes that since candidates are allowed to jump easily from one program to another that it makes the route ineffective as the sequence of instruction becomes disrupted.  New requirements for this process would require candidates to remain in one program from start to finish, writes Adam Clark for NJ.com.

The alternative-route programs would also see an extension to allow for candidates to complete a required two years of training instead of just one, while also increasing the mandatory hours.  “It’s too easy to say, ‘You know what, I want to be a teacher,’” Shulman said. “That doesn’t make sense for our kids.”

Substitute teachers in the state currently need to hold an associate’s degree or have earned 60 college credits.  While the proposal would most likely grandfather in current substitutes, new candidates would need to complete a bachelor’s degree.  The number of consecutive days a substitute can be in a classroom would also be lowered.

Requirements would also become stricter for out-of-state teachers, who are currently accepted under “porous rules” in the state. Teachers who would like to begin careers in the state would need to show proof of effective teaching in two out of three years in order to receive a permanent license.

While The New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, agreed with most of the proposal, they did not feel that requirements should be stricter for substitutes, saying it could lead to a shortage.