By Nicole Brown
Graduating with a degree in education may become more difficult under the new proposals from New Jersey’s Department of Education made in February.
The new plan set by the state would raise standards for teachers entering into the profession to guarantee preparation that supports high-quality instruction in the classroom.
Student teachers are currently required to complete one semester of student teaching, but the state’s proposal would require students to complete two consecutive semesters of student teaching and enroll in special education sessions. Student teaching would also be conducted under careful supervision of highly-qualified teachers and would follow more rigorous standards.
The new plan would also impact substitute teachers and those seeking the alternative route.
In order to earn a substitute teacher’s license in New Jersey the state requires 60 college credits. The new law would require substitutes to obtain a bachelor’s degree, including enrollment in a teachers’ preparation program.
Dr. Thomas Walsh, Associate Professor at Kean for math and science education, said students are already struggling to get through the education program and the proposals would only make it more difficult.
“There are many students who work full time to pay for their education, including those who have bills to pay and families to support,” said Walsh. “Two unpaid semesters in student teaching would be challenging.”
Walsh also noted the importance of having good teachers in the classroom and strict requirements that would support this.
“If the proposals are approved the quality of education will increase, but the number of teachers will decrease,” said Walsh. “A lot of students will drop out of the program, but those who remain will get quality preparation.”
According to Dr. Anthony Pittman, Acting Dean for the College of Education, the efforts to improve the quality of education for all pre-k through 12 grades make the proposed changes relevant.
“The goal is to ensure that the life cycle of the teacher is respected, is of paramount importance and teachers in general get the support they need in order to execute their responsibilities,” said Pittman.
However, Pittman highlighted that the proposed regulations raised questions and concerns particularly to the certification and preparation of potential teachers.
“Presently, there are exorbitant costs that teacher education candidates incur, and if these regulations are passed, the expenses will raise yet again,” said Pittman. “Resources continue to dwindle, yet teacher education programs continue to struggle to do more with less.”
Pittman said the proposals, in many ways, address “the what” but they do not articulate sufficiently “the how.” For instance, he noted that many would-be teachers would weigh the struggle to finance a full year unpaid student teaching internship. The state would need to be more incentivized in order to attract more potential teachers, especially in an era where the stakes for standardized testing are high.
Alternate route teachers, who are candidates looking to venture into a career in education, must meet all the New Jersey entry requirements and complete training with the same provider before earning an initial certificate.
Under the current law teachers can earn a lifetime license to teach in New Jersey after one year of teaching and three observations conducted by a principal. But the proposal would extend the provisional period to two years, including two years of effective instructional ratings.
In New Jersey, almost any out of state candidate who has a certificate, regardless of experience and qualification receives the equivalent certificate. The proposal would require alternative route candidates from out of state to meet the same requirements as an alternative route teacher candidate in New Jersey.
Danielle Wellington, an early childhood education major, said that the proposed changes would better prepare potential teachers.
“Two semesters of student teaching would benefit us,” said Wellington. “It would allow us to gain the experiences we need for the classroom.”