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THE STATE Board of Regents has tightened the rules for licensing new teachers, starting in September 1993. The more stringent requirements mark a step toward ensuring better prepared teachers at a time of wide concern about the quality of American education.

Under the new rules, prospective teachers will be required to pass a state test of general knowledge, covering math, social studies, history and science. This will be in addition to tests on teaching methods and teachers' specialties.

New teachers in the state are already required to take a national teachers exam, but the use of a state test will give the Regents better control over the process.

New teachers will also have to complete a one-year internship and take at least one year of foreign language study. The study of a foreign language is now a mandatory part of the curriculum in elementary schools.

Further, new teachers will be required to to concentrate on liberal arts during their college years in order to obtain a New York State teaching license. This will prevent prospective teachers from taking an excessive number of education courses at the expense of acquiring general knowledge.

The new requirements are welcome and overdue. Teachers' salaries have rightly been upgraded in recent years -- Buffalo teachers, for example, now average about $38,000 to $39,000 a year -- and the state is justified in adopting stiffer licensing rules for future teachers.

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