N.J. changes certification requirements for teachers

In one of the biggest changes, the board voted to require students to do 175 hours of clinical work in a classroom setting before they start their full semester of student teaching.

Education Commissioner David Hespe said the state was answering a “clear call to action” to help students by helping their teachers.

“In particular, we know that hands-on experiences are invaluable in preparing teachers, and not all candidates have been getting enough of that time in the classroom,” he said. “Providing more of these experiences will lead to better prepared teachers, which in turn leads to increased student achievement.”

Heads of colleges, universities and vocational schools had raised concerns that the additional hours would be costly and hard to fit into busy teacher preparation programs. They feared the change would discourage people from entering the field.

To address those concerns, the board announced a last-minute change Wednesday allowing students to complete the 175 hours over more than one semester. The initial proposal stipulated that the training was to take place in a single semester.

Teacher candidates also will be required to train in multiple types of classrooms, including at least one with students with disabilities. The state also will require them to complete an assessment showing how well they can plan and teach a lesson.

Under the revised regulations, teachers will earn their standard certification only after showing competency through the statewide AchieveNJ educator-evaluation system. The evaluation system is based on observations, student progress, and in some cases student tests scores.

Some of the changes will take effect immediately, while others will be phased in over the next few years, officials said.

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