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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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New Mexico leading the nation in teacher certification program

New Mexico is leading the nation in a certification program for high school teachers of trade subjects and their students, says Carlos Rosencrans, an associate professor of Agricultural and Extension Education at New Mexico State University.

The program enables teachers to become certified so students can receive the necessary skills in class to receive certification after graduation. The program also gives the teachers the ability to certify the students.

The certification program was created in response to the tech-prep and vocational programs of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, which requires students to have job-ready placement skills. The NCLB Act was created to reform schools based upon four pillars - stronger accountability for results, more freedom for states and communities, proven education methods and more choices for parents.

Tech-prep and vocational programs in schools teach students trades, or crafts, which are defined as occupations requiring manual or mechanical skill. The most common high school trades classes taught in New Mexico are welding, carpentry and some electrical.

To become certified in these areas and others, the teachers must attend a three-day craft instructor training seminar, taught by master trainers. There are six master trainers in the state, including Rosencrans. Master trainers must attend a week-long national training seminar.

There are more than 70 high school trade programs in the state, with more than 90 teachers. To ensure that every student receives the same training, the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) offers a certification program with industry-based curriculum and textbooks. Every trade subject from construction and maintenance to safety is covered by the NCCER curriculum. However, some teachers choose to use other certification programs.

After a teacher becomes certified through the program, the NCCER maintains many requirements for the teacher and the students, and will make sure that procedures and proper safety measures are followed correctly. The organization also keeps a national registry for students and craft instructors in order to provide industry-recognized credentials and national portability of skills.

"This program has numerous benefits and is worthwhile. Students coming out of the program not only have the potential to receive an increase in pay, but it also standardizes everything - teachers in the state are much more on the same page now," Rosencrans said.

New Mexico is the first state to have statewide coverage for all of its agricultural education and trades classes. The New Mexico FFA Organization serves as a sponsor for all of the schools and their programs. Certified teachers also qualify for federal funding.

"The goal of this is for high school students to graduate with basic entry-level skills so they can receive a job in a technical field if they choose not to attend college," said Les Purcella, director of agricultural education and FFA programs.

Since the program was implemented in high schools in 2005, 80 teachers and 300 students in the state have received certification, and more are expected as the program progresses. A certification program in horticulture may be added, but a national sponsor is required before it can be implemented.