Missouri launches teacher training

Missouri has launched the nation's first statewide initiative to raise computer skills for teachers, students and other members of the work force through certification in the Microsoft Office User Specialist (MOUS) program.

The state began its pilot program at the end of the school year at the Columbia Area Career Center and will phase in the program throughout four state geographic quadrants.

The testing and training centers will be placed in 24 vocational schools across the state, six in each quadrant. That way, "teachers throughout the state can get to a center within an hour's drive," said Bonnie Brockman, a member of the initiative's planning committee and a supervisor in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The MOUS program is the only Microsoft Corp.-approved training and certification program designed to benchmark desktop computer skills in using Microsoft Office applications. The program focuses on computer literacy, measuring proficiency and productivity and identifying opportunities for skills enhancement.

Nivo International Inc., the company that administers the program for Microsoft, donated 10,000 free tests for the state. The online tests examine each applicant in the Office suite of applications, which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Teachers of kindergarten through grade 12, as well as juniors and seniors in high school business courses, will be mailed applications in the fall offering them an opportunity to take the tests and receive the training.

Following the test, a student or teacher receives a printout with an evaluation and the level achieved: proficient, expert or master. Three teachers who went through the pilot program recently attained "master" status, Brockman said.

"Teachers can use all the applications -- not just part of the product -- as a teaching tool," Brockman said.

She foresees the certifications being used as a way for business students to receive college credit and as a tool for businesses to guarantee that potential employees are proficient in the computer programs. "These tests are proof -- the industry standard -- and can save money and time for businesses in training employees," Brockman said.

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