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Red tape of relocation (March 24)

March 24, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Last year, Lee Ebersole's family moved from Montgomery County, Md., to Shepherdstown, W.Va., so he began looking for a teaching job closer to his new home.

Ebersole, who teaches English to gifted and talented students, brought with him a master's degree in education from the University of Maryland and a Maryland teaching certification for kindergarten through eighth grade.

But when he applied for teaching jobs in West Virginia, Ebersole said, he was treated as though he didn't have a degree from what he considers one of the best education colleges in the country.

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Like many teachers who apply for jobs in another state, Ebersole encountered many hurdles and additional requirements needed for him to become certified.

Realizing the need for a standard certification process, the nonprofit Council for Basic Education in Washington has been working with area states to create an interregional teaching license for new teachers, said Diana Rigden, the council's vice president.

A standard certificate is especially needed now when a large number of teachers from the baby boomer era are approaching retirement, some states' colleges and universities aren't producing enough teachers to accommodate needs in those states, and competition for teachers is strong, Rigden said.

Some policies are exacerbating the teacher shortage. Reduced class sizes create a need for more teachers, and the federal No Child Left Behind act puts pressure on school systems to have teachers certified or have credentials in the subjects they teach, Rigden said.

Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, Delaware and New Jersey are official members of the council. West Virginia has had a representative at the meetings, but is not an official member, Rigden said.

Pennsylvania is the only participating state that produces more teachers than it needs, though there is a shortage in the Philadelphia area, she said.

Beverly Hughes, associate superintendent for Jefferson County Schools, said she has been emphasizing the importance of accepting out-of-state teaching certificates to state officials for years, with little success.

"We're fighting a battle from a vast majority of the state," Hughes said.

While the Eastern Panhandle and some isolated areas are experiencing population growth, most of the state is not. So a majority of the state's school systems don't want more competition for teaching jobs, Hughes said.

Ebersole said he got the impression during his application process that West Virginia didn't want teachers from outside the state.

To become certified in West Virginia, Ebersole had to, among other things, take two Praxis Series tests similar to ones he'd already taken in Maryland. The Praxis Series assesses academic skills, skills in specific subjects and classroom performance.

Three months into his application process, he discovered his background only certified him to teach kindergarten through sixth grade in West Virginia even though he'd been teaching at Maryland middle schools, Ebersole said. He became a teacher of the gifted program at South Jefferson Elementary this year.

Ebersole said he didn't have to take additional courses, but many teachers do when they cross state lines.

As an example of how standards can change from state to state, a few points on a Praxis reading test can be a hurdle for a teacher certified in Pennsylvania that wants to teach in Maryland, said Don Francis, director of human resources for Washington County Public Schools. That hurdle doesn't exist if the applicant has taught two consecutive years in Pennsylvania, he said.

Transferring to another state was easier before the mid-1990s, then states started raising their standards because of accountability issues, said Lynn Lerew, director of human resources for Chambersburg (Pa.) Area School District.

Tri-State area educators said an interregional teaching license would greatly assist their efforts to recruit teachers because they compete with each other and nearby Virginia school systems, which often offer higher salaries.

Council for Basic Education members are reviewing their proposal and hope to send it to the member states' education departments by the end of March, Rigden said. They need to determine if the states will support the effort and whether it needs legislative approval.

The issue is tougher to tackle for practicing teachers, Rigden said. Besides certification requirements, there is difficulty transferring pensions and seniority across state lines.

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