NGA takes on teacher tech training

ST. LOUIS -- The National Governors' Association meeting wrapped up here this week with a session devoted to harnessing technology in U.S. schools. But the conversation quickly turned to governors' displeasure with post-secondary schools of education, which they said are graduating teachers with a severe lack of technology education.

Following a presentation of the JASON project, a multimedia system designed to teach students about distant regions of the world, New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) asked Vanderbilt University Chancellor Joseph Wyatt what universities were doing to train teachers in the proper classroom uses of technology.

"New teachers are not properly trained," Wyatt said. "Curricula allows a person to receive a degree and get a certificate to teach, even if they're not qualified."

Wyatt recommended making schools of education accountable, like medical and law schools, and requiring unqualified teachers to go back and get accreditation. "Governors can do it," he said.

Delaware Gov. Thomas Carper (D), NGA's outgoing chairman, also noted that school trustees could "apply heat" to schools to improve their technology education programs.

Cheryl Lemke, executive director of the Milken Exchange on Education Technology, noted that only 20 states have standards for teachers in technology training. "Governors need to look at that," she said.

The NGA has partnered with Milken to produce a report called "Transforming Learning Through Technology: Policy Roadmaps for the Nation's Governors" to help ensure that technology is properly used in U.S. schools.

South Dakota Gov. William Janklow (R) trumpeted his state's Teachers Technology Learning program, a month-long summer course where teachers are immersed in new technology and receive 220 hours of training. About a quarter of the state's teachers already have graduated from the TTL, Janklow said.

Janklow said the program was so successful that they held related seminars for school superintendents and administrators. "The weak link in all of this is the colleges and universities," Janklow said. "They don't change. There are too many teachers who say 'You students know more about this than I do...let's work through it together.'"

Massachusetts Gov. Argeo Paul Cellucci (R) detailed his state's hard-nosed approach to increasing technology proficiency in its schools of education. In 1993, the state started testing prospective teachers on basic teaching and technology skills, and about 60 percent failed in the first year.

"The schools of education requirements were too low," Cellucci said. "Now they know if 80 percent of [their] graduates aren't passing the tests, [they're] going to be decertified. Believe me, it got their attention."

The session began with a presentation by two seventh-grade students from Clark County, Nev., who demonstrated the JASON project, an interactive program that uses reading, writing, science and social studies skills to examine different regions of the world.

The students, Justin Pizzo and Samantha Meiers, studied the rain forest and used geographic information systems (GIS), online forums and the Internet to complete the project, which can last from three months to an entire year.

The students' teacher, Sharon Pearson, Clark County's teacher of the year in 1998 and recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Science, also addressed the governors.

The governors concluded their annual meeting by installing Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt (R) as the new NGA chairman. Leavitt mentioned a wide array of topics on his agenda and said helping governors understand how electronic commerce and the Internet will continue to affect the states are among his many priorities.

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