Oct. 23, 2002 – A two-day conference opening Thursday on St. Thomas was initially intended to address qualifications for special education teachers. But it has been expanded in scope to the overall certification of teachers in the public schools.
Education officials say one-third of the territory's public school teachers are certified. Under the new federal No Child Left Behind Act, all teachers are to have the appropriate licenses and certification by 2006.
"The purpose of the conference is to develop standards for licensing general and special education teachers," said Alscess Lewis-Brown, Education Department personnel director. The department's teacher certification manual is to be reviewed.
Lewis-Brown said she hopes the conference, at the Holiday Inn Windward Passage Hotel, will give decision makers a better understanding of the certification process. Organizers also want to build a shared understanding about the needs of children with disabilities as expressed in No Child Left Behind, she said.
The Board of Education has responsibility for teacher certification, and its executive director, Evadney Hodge, says a lot of work must be done to ensure that the other two-thirds of public school teachers meet the criteria that will be required of them in the next four years.
She said an assessment under way involves the review of teachers' college transcripts in order to gain insights into the kinds of course work they may need in order to progress in the licensing process.
The board also is looking at various means of achieving its goals. Hodge said the University of the Virgin Islands offers practice tests that teachers can take as a form of self-assessment — in terms of general knowledge, subject knowledge and effective teaching methods.
Hodge said the board is talking with UVI about holding summer institutes for teachers to complete their course work for certification. Many teachers have not taken a course in V.I. history, "and that has been a requirement since 1999," she noted.
Education Department officials have been working for a year to develop a manual that would spell out the needs and requirements for teacher certification. Hodge said the manual is still a work in progress, one that will likely need revision. "It began as a special education initiative," she said, "but as we began to work on it, we decided to expand it to include general education."
Along with addressing issues relating to the qualifying of teachers for different subjects and different education levels, the manual looks at certification procedures in other parts of the country and includes copies of documents used by other school systems in conferring certification.
It also looks at the process the board might use to issue teacher endorsements. "Endorsements allow teachers to be transferred from one area of need to another," Brown said.
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