American Board for Certification President explains Passport to Teaching program

In order to develop a larger pool of qualified teachers, more programs are needed, according to David Saba, president, American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE).

In 1970, 25 percent of degrees awarded nationwide were in education, compared to just 14 percent today, Saba told GBC Members at an Education Committee meeting on June 14. Not enough college students are going into teaching and the number of teachers retiring is at record high levels. Some say it’s a retention issue and others blame it on the youth moving in and out of careers more frequently.

Last year, 2,000 candidates were prepared to go into teaching in Maryland, but the state needs 8,000, he said. Saba described an alternative teacher certification program, “Passport to Teaching,” that has not yet been introduced in Maryland. It is running in seven states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Idaho, Utah, Mississippi, and just recently, South Carolina.

ABCTE is a nonprofit organization that recruits, certifies and supports teachers. Partially funded by grants through the U.S. Department of Education, ABCTE offers the Passport to Teaching certification, said Saba. Passport to Teaching certification was designed for professionals who want to change careers and become teachers and for current teachers who need to earn their certifications.

Each candidate for Passport to Teaching certification must hold a bachelor’s degree and demonstrate mastery on subject area and professional teaching knowledge exams, said Saba. All teachers who earn state certification through Passport to Teaching are considered highly qualified according to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Candidates first work with an experienced teacher to develop a learning plan to help them prepare for the classroom, he said. On average, candidates spend 10 months preparing for the classroom and participate in more than 40 hours of online teaching workshops and subject area refresher courses.

After completion of their studies, candidates must demonstrate mastery on two exams: Professional Teaching Knowledge and their subject area examinations before they enter the classroom, explains Saba. Upon completion, candidates are eligible to earn an initial teaching certificate, followed by a one or two year mentoring program offered by the state, a school district, or ABCTE.

The program can be customized according to the candidate’s schedule, so it could be completed in four or up to 18 months, he said. Certifications are available in a variety of disciplines including math, science, elementary education, and other areas.

“The program could be brought to Baltimore if there’s a need,” said Saba. There should be multiple programs available to get enough teachers into Maryland. The type of people interested in this program could be a spouse relocated by BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) or employees coming out of companies being shut down, he said.

The goal is to try to find good, solid teachers who want to be in classrooms and who know their content, Saba said. Less than 40 percent make it through the program, but it has to be rigorous – teachers need to be good for the classrooms.

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