Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Professional Educator Standards Board
October 1, 2003

Good morning. Thank you, Carolyn, for that kind introduction. And I want to thank the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future for making this policy forum possible.

We’re nearly a month into another school year. I still can’t believe my daughter Emily started the first grade this year. Things have settled down now, but that first day there were the usual emotions.

Anxiety about wearing the right outfit. Concern over whether we had all the right school supplies. Worrying about getting to school on time. Agonizing over how the day would go. Then the inevitable tears. And that was just me and Mona!

Emily was actually pretty calm and took it all in stride! And Dylan can hardly wait until next year when he starts kindergarten.

Being the governor is usually a “24 by 7” job. But when I go home at night, I am just plain “Dad.” And like every other mom and dad in this state, I am deeply concerned about and interested in the quality of education our state gives to our children.

That’s why I am honored to welcome this group today. As you know, the Professional Educator Standards Board was created by legislation that I requested. This Board reflects a simple premise: if our state is to set and follow the highest standards for education professionals, the professionals themselves must show us the way.

The legislation creating this Board is clear in its intent: “Professional educator standards boards are consumer protection boards, establishing assessment policies to assure the public that its new practitioners have the knowledge to be competent.”

It was my belief that our state was moving too slowly on ensuring competence of new teachers. We needed a body dedicated to ensuring the highest quality educators. How best to do that and gain acceptance by educators than by a body composed of educators themselves who are exceptional and recognized by their peers?

And in just a few years, the Board has become a valuable partner in improving Washington education. We rely on this Board for advice and counsel on educator issues. And I am truly proud of the strong contribution the Board is making to education in our state.

When the Standards Board was created in 2000, a first assignment was to develop a means to examine teacher candidates. We needed to assure that these potential teacher candidates had basic skills competency.

There was no defined state standard. The Standards Board has now established reading, writing and mathematics assessments for those entering preparation programs. This is significant progress for our state.

A second assignment given in 2000 is ensuring that teachers have the knowledge they need to teach in the content area in which they are certified. The Standards Board has established subject area assessments and set cut scores for these endorsements. More progress.

A third Standards Board assignment given in 2001 is development and implementation of alternative teacher certification programs. We have been working hard through this program to provide the teachers we need in shortage areas and to allow professionals with needed skills to become educators without having to go back to college for a full-blown degree in education

And the Board has again made substantial progress in just two years. 153 teachers have completed alternative route certification programs. They are now teaching in areas in which we face shortages. 94 more individuals are currently enrolled in these programs.

Individuals in these alternative certification route programs are meeting the same preparation standards as those in more traditional programs. But they are using different practices and means to meet the standards. These experiences teach us that effective teacher preparation programs can be implemented more strategically. We can advance from the course and credit-driven plan to a truly competency-based model.

The Standards Board has done an outstanding job the past three years. Of course, the job is never finished. We continue to face many challenges. You’ll be considering some of these challenges today.

One of our greatest challenges is to figure out a new compensation system. A system that recognizes outstanding educators. A system that rewards what we value.

Tough economic times have made this a much more difficult task. But together we must continue to work on solutions. Otherwise, we will continue to fight an uphill battle to get and keep the teachers we need.

And if we don’t figure out how to better reward teachers now, then our children will pay for it later. That’s a consequence our state cannot afford. We must find a way. And we will find a way.

The public supports higher compensation for educators but it also wants greater accountability and standards of excellence among educators. That’s why all your work on (beginning) teacher certification is so important and integrally linked to the good of better compensation for teachers.

There are many other questions that will be addressed during today’s dialogue that should guide your work as you move ahead. I would like to leave you with a few of the questions about which I’m most concerned.

Are we adequately preparing our elementary level teachers for the mathematics they are now expected to teach? If not, what do we need to do to ensure this?

Are we adequately preparing secondary level teachers to help students use their basic reading skills to acquire knowledge and develop meaning from their textbooks and materials?

Do our schools of education and second-level certification programs prepare teachers to work with our diverse student population?

In short:
1. How do we ensure that our schools of education are training educators to help all our kids meet our high academic standards?
2. Shouldn’t we be assessing the strengths of each of our schools of education?
3. And shouldn’t this information be made available to prospective education majors?

What do we need to do to assure that our certification system requirements are meaningful for the experienced teacher? How do we continue to build expertise among our experienced teachers?

I know each of you cares as much as I do about the answers to these and other important questions. I know that each of you shares my determination to continue our state’s progress in education.

Each of you was appointed to the Board because you are recognized as outstanding educators.

Your energetic commitment to high standards and exceptional professionals bodes well for the future of education in Washington.

Great educators are the soul of an enlightened society. We entrust in them the most precious thing we know in life—our children. For parents, education professionals are often our closest partners in guiding our kids to their future and their dreams. Our state and I, as governor AND as a dad, profoundly appreciate the work you do, and the responsibility you bear.

Thank you for your efforts, and keep up the great work. Continue to set the bar high!

Access Washington