America's largest teachers' union Wednesday reversed a longstanding position and went on record in favor of certification tests for new teachers.
However, the 7,500 delegates to the National Education Assn.'s annual convention reiterated the union's opposition to competency tests for those teachers already in the classroom.
Instead, they passed a resolution that calls for local school districts to evaluate current teachers based on classroom performance and for the dismissal of those who are not up to standards.
Called Racially Biased
The 1.7-million-member NEA had previously opposed teacher certification tests as racially biased and as roadblocks to equal opportunity.
But it now says that properly developed and administered tests for new teachers could upgrade the profession. The union said specifically that the exams would help raise the esteem as well as salaries of teachers, whose average salary of about $23,500 leaves them among the ranks of the nation's lowest paid professionals.
The convention resolution calls for state certification exams and a requirement that new teachers are graduated from college with at least B averages and after having participated in internship programs.
Request by Rival Union
The NEA's rival, the 580,000-member American Federation of Teachers, had called for a national test for new teachers six months ago.
On another issue, the NEA delegates decided to ask its union locals to survey their schools for the presence of asbestos, an insulator shown to cause cancer.
NEA Vice President Keith Geiger said the checks will show that many school districts have not complied with federal rules, which require inspection for breatheable asbestos, notice to parent and employee groups if any is found and posting of notices in buildings.