SHORT HISTORY OF THE ABE TEACHER'S LICENSE
new license is the result of three decades of nearly
continuous effort by practitioners, staff developers,
state department staff, and other stakeholders. Several
task forces, committees, and other bodies worked hard
on developing a process model; their efforts provided
the foundation upon which a final effort was mounted.
This final push came from the need for the Department
of Education to provide a process that would allow
ABE teachers with K-12 licenses to re-certify in the
ABE field, thus applying their time and effort to
learning that what their adult learners need for them
to know and be able to do.
new licensure process, approved by the Board of Education
at their April 2001 meeting, was the responsibility
of a statewide ABE Certification Advisory Committee,
which reviewed issues, proposals, and products already
articulated or developed in the field and more recently
through work and focus groups. Discussions began with
a careful review of prior work, which in sum reflected
the ideas and responses of hundreds of Massachusetts
practitioners ranging back for many years. Several
key concerns stood out historically to guide the work
undertaken by the Advisory Committee and the staff
and work groups that served it. These concerns were
new ABE license must be meaningful. It must be
able to stand beside other state and professional
licenses with equal prestige and impact. It must not
take the form of a lesser "endorsement"
or be designed as an "add-on" to the state's
K-12 system (as is the case in many other states).
To be meaningful, the license must also require that
to-be-certified teachers reach a high level of proficiency
in knowledge, skills, and actual classroom practice,
so that adult learners will genuinely benefit.
licensure process must be fair. Many ABE teachers
can boast of years of experience in ABE classrooms;
many have devoted time and effort to serious staff
development; many have earned K-12 licenses. A fair
process would recognize the knowledge and skills that
these individuals have already acquired. Over the
years, a portfolio-based assessment approach has received
the widest support.
process must be accessible. Most ABE teachers
in Massachusetts are part-time; many are underpaid
for their work; many must stitch together several
jobs to make ends meet. Therefore, the new process
must allow teachers to use low-cost, variously scheduled,
and variously designed options for teachers to acquire
the knowledge and skills they will need to meet standards.
process must be inclusive. The ABE field prides
itself on valuing the knowledge and skills that adult
learners have gained from life experience and by emphasizing
that learning is a lifelong activity. To be consistent
with these and other principles, an ABE licensure
process must allow talented teachers who are non-traditionally
educated and individuals for whom English is not their
first language to undertake licensure. Alternatives
to the usual baseline requirements and/or additional
forms of support must make their ways into the process.
key concerns have shaped the licensure process in
several specific ways. First of all, standards were
developed that are distinct to ABE teaching. Second,
a flexible approach to indicating and acquiring required
levels of proficiency was adopted, specifically portfolio
based. Third, routes to licensure were developed that
credit the knowledge and skills of experienced teachers.
Fourth, a high degree of support has been built into
the system in various forms—e.g., the development
of no-cost training opportunities ("pilot courses"),
and allowing non-degree-bearing teachers the option
to enter accelerated Master's programs that do not
require a bachelor's degree for enrollment. In addition,
the Massachusetts Department of Education will continue
efforts to broker the development of ABE-specific
higher education courses as well as full teacher preparation
practical considerations have also had an impact on
the process. For one, many teachers work under Local
Education Agencies, or LEAs, that require licensure.
An ABE license that is not recognizably consistent
with current K-12 licenses might be rejected by some
LEAs as substandard. Realities like this one have
prompted system planners to design an ABE license
that remains true to the ABE field and the concerns
of its members while aligning wherever possible with
the state's K-12 system.
second practical concern of high impact has been how
to accommodate the shifting roles that so many ABE
teachers take on. Fluctuations in funding and learners'
needs, among other factors, often either force (or
allow) teachers to shift from one teaching assignment
to another (e.g., from math to ESOL) or from one staff
role to another (e.g., teaching to counseling, or
program management). A great many teachers juggle
various roles and assignments at the same time. These
realities have prompted system planners to design
a general ABE license rather than several that
reflect specializations (e.g., math, ESOL, or ASE/GED).
The challenge has been to require meaningful levels
of proficiency across all teaching areas without marking