Overseas Schools Move to Hire More Teachers
By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 14, 2000 The agency that administers DoD schools on military bases overseas is about to make it easier for spouses of military service members to get teaching jobs.
Beginning April 1, the Department of Defense Dependents Schools will accept teacher certifications from individual states, said Ray Tolleson, interim director of the DoD Education Agency. DoDEA operates both overseas and domestic DoD schools.
Tolleson said the change will bring DoDDS schools in line with accepted nationwide teacher-hiring practices, in which a state will generally accept an individual's teaching credentials from another state. Currently, individuals seeking DoDDS teaching jobs have to meet rigorous agency requirements regardless of their prior experience or certification.
DoDEA's requirements weren't more stringent than states', just different, Tolleson said. For instance, DoDEA requires applicants to pass the National Teacher Examination, a test of general knowledge and communications skills. However, some states require a different nationally accepted test, the Praxis exam, or equivalent tests they devised themselves.
After April 1, DoDDS will accept applicants who have passed either of the exams or who have seven successful years' teaching experience in the United States.
"If a person has successful performance ratings for seven years, we believe this is sufficient evidence that they can perform on the job," Tolleson said.
Another change will provide better job security for teachers hired at overseas locations. On April 1, they will be considered "permanent employees" with the same rights as teachers hired in the United States, he said. Under the current agency policy, teachers hired in the locality of the overseas school are temporaries who must reapply for employment each school year and have no job guarantees.
Tolleson said the only difference in benefits after April 1 would be that teachers hired in the United States will continue to receive a separate housing allowance not authorized to those hired overseas.
Even though the requirements will change, DoDEA officials insist the hiring standards remain high. "Accepting applications from people who have stateside certification doesn't mean we select those who are any less qualified. We've just expanded our choices," Tolleson said.
He said all teachers must go through a two-year probationary period regardless of their prior experience. "We haven't given up our ability to accurately evaluate the person," he said.
"I think these changes will enhance the quality of education that DoDDS students have. Most of the spouses are familiar with the military system. In some cases they have children in our schools," he said. "They understand the unique stresses military families face and are able to be sensitive to students whose parents are deployed to Bosnia or Kosovo.
"I don't mean to say that teachers we hire from the United States aren't sensitive," he said, "but sometimes understanding of the military's unique situations has to be learned."
Tolleson said the April 1 changes were driven by comments he heard in town hall meetings in Europe and the Pacific. He said he met many spouses overseas who are qualified teachers but who were unable to find meaningful work because of his agency's unusual requirements. Another factor is the steadily growing average age of DoDDS teachers.
"We have a work force that mirrors many school districts in the United States in that many folks are getting to an age where it's time for them to start looking at retirement," Tolleson said. He estimated DoDDS may see as much as a 50-percent teacher turnover in the next five years.
For information on the agency, overseas employment, job vacancies, wage scales and more, visit the DoDEA Internet Web site at http://www.odedodea.edu/.
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