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Provisional teachers are rare in county

March 28, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Washington County has the third-lowest percentage of provisional teachers in the state, according to the Maryland State Department of Education.

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The state issues one-year provisional certificates to teachers who don't meet the full requirements for a professional certificate. The minimum requirement for a provisional certificate is a bachelor's degree.

Of Washington County's 1,220 teachers, nine hold provisional certificates. That's a .74 percentage of provisional teachers, well below the state average of 5.7 percent and a lower portion than most counties.

"We're very, very lucky," said Donna Newcomer-Coble, supervisor of human resources and teacher personnel for Washington County public schools.

Certification is a complex issue and teachers may hold a provisional certificate for a variety of reasons, Newcomer-Coble said.

"People always assume provisional means not qualified," she said. "That's not always true."

For example, new Maryland teachers must take Praxis I and Praxis II, tests that assess general academic skills and skills in a specific subject area like math.

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A college student graduating in May may seek a teaching job before getting his test results back. A school system may hire him provisionally on the condition that he earn qualifying scores.

However, the teacher can take the test again if he fails without losing his job immediately. The provisional certificate is valid for one year but it can be renewed.

"Usually, within a year people are off those provisionals," Newcomer-Coble said. "I think we very carefully monitor people when we bring them in provisionally."

Newcomer-Coble said she examines transcripts of provisional teachers to decide if they are good candidates for professional certification.

There is a financial incentive to earn a professional certificate. Provisional teachers make substantially less than professional teachers.

For example, a first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree and a provisional certificate makes $22,673 in Washington County. A first-year teacher with a standard professional certificate makes $28,070.

The same is true higher up the scale. A teacher with 16 years of experience and a master's degree makes $41,462, according to Newcomer-Coble. If he forgets to renew his advanced professional certificate, he drops to a provisional pay, $36,830.

Provisional certificates are only issued at the request of a superintendent. Some school systems strive to hire as few provisionals as possible. However, it is often necessary in subject areas where there is a shortage of teachers.

"We don't want anyone in the classroom that's not certified," said Superintendent of Schools Herman G. Bartlett Jr. "We have tried hard to have that happen. That's been a goal, to get it to zero."

The numbers of provisional teachers is lower in rural areas. Of Baltimore City's 5,556 teachers, 964 are provisional- the highest percentage in the state. Prince George's County follows with 15.5 percent.

Only Calvert and Allegany counties have lower percentages of provisional teachers than Washington County.

The labor market for teachers is increasingly competitive, so the numbers may mean Washington County has an advantage. "People just aren't gravitating to Prince George's and Baltimore," said Newcomer-Coble.

"Hopefully, they're looking for quality of life as well as salary."

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