In light of the NCLB legislation, this article describes the effectiveness of alternative forms of teacher certification. Alternative certification has grown in popularity in recent years, but as the article notes, the results have been mixed. Some studies demonstrate that alternative certification is fast and also effective in producing well educated children,...
Quotes on Teacher Certification & Alternatives
"When a man fits himself in America to teach history or chemistry, it scarcely seems to occur to him, or rather it scarcely seems to occur to those who prescribe his studies for him, that he ought to study history or chemistry. Instead, he studies merely 'education'. The study of education seems to be regarded as absolving a teacher from obtaining any knowledge of the subjects that he is undertaking to teach. And the pupils are being told, in effect, that the simple storing up in the mind of facts concerning the universe and human life is a drudgery from which they have now been emancipated; they are being told, in other words, that the great discovery has been made in modern times that it is possible to learn how to 'think' with a completely empty mind. It cannot be said that the result is impressive. In fact the untrammeled operation of the effects of this great American pedagogic discovery is placing American schools far behind the schools of the rest of the civilized world."
"While certification can serve to screen out aspirants who fail to meet a minimal performance standard, our current system is not designed to do so. Generally speaking, schools of education are not selective, fail out few if any students for inadequate performance, and see that more than 95 percent of their graduates receive teacher licenses."
"Sadly, the model currently embraced by champions of teacher certification is actually more akin to that of cosmetology than of law or medicine. In a field like the former, certification does not screen out the unskilled or provide an assurance of specialized mastery so much as it provides assurance that the aspirant has completed a prescribed course of study and logged mandatory practice hours."
"Certification makes gatekeepers of those who do the licensing. In a diverse nation marked by disagreements about what constitutes desirable pedagogy or a good curriculum, this poses a philosophical concern. During their training, prospective teachers are at a formative and impressionable stage. By entrusting schools of education with control over entry into teaching, certification lends the instructors a privileged position in sensitive social and moral discussion.
This would be of little concern if education faculty mirrored the divisions within the larger society, but such is not the case. Professors of education tend to espouse a 'constructivist' conception of pedagogy, curriculum, and schooling. It is received wisdom in teacher education that aggressive multiculturalism is a good thing, that aspiring white teachers ought to be forced to confront society’s ingrained racism, that girls are victims of gender discrimination in public schooling, and so on. While these are legitimate views, these are normative, subject to fierce debate, and often diverge sharply from those of most voters (as reflected in public opinion surveys). The result is that the state essentially endorses a particular and fairly radical philosophy, rather than permitting all approaches to compete on an equal basis in the real world of schooling."
"A particularly unfortunate consequence of certification is that it is counterproductive, discouraging those individuals who are more likely to produce greater student achievement from entering the profession. Nationally, teachers generally score about 40 to 70 points lower on their college entrance exams than do college graduates who choose other professions. Teachers who did not prepare in college for teaching careers, but who chose to teach anyway, were more likely to have scored in the top quartile of their entering college class than were those teachers who were prepared in college to teach."
“Grading standards in teacher-education programs were extremely low. At one public university, 78 percent of students who took courses in 'curriculum and foundations' received A’s. But on that same campus, only 18 percent of the grades earned in English or physics were A’s. A study of 14 state universities showed that the average grade in an education course was a full letter-grade higher than the average for a math course, and one-half grade higher than the average humanities grade.”
“The National Education Association has declared its objective to make licensure ‘a process controlled by the profession.’ It is clear to us that the profession has been doing little to ensure that new teachers have the knowledge base they need and much to ensure that colleges of education could expand their control of the preparation of public-school teachers. Although per-pupil expenditures in the United States are among the highest in the world, most reform efforts still assume that only more money will help our children. National and international studies, however, show that our high expenditures and intense focus on educational theory have not served us well where it matters: the academic performance of our schoolchildren.”
“The certification saga is a story of attempts by the teacher education establishment to gain monopoly control over the preparation and licensure of all teachers. That establishment has won enormous victories. As a result, a large majority of today’s teachers studied education both as undergraduates and as graduates. And therein lies the seed of a worthy reform: what the country needs is teachers who are broadly and deeply educated, not people who mostly studied education.”
“The point is that alternative certification is, like so much in public education, bureaucratic and unnecessarily restrictive. There is no such thing as ‘holistic hiring,’ as is found in businesses, colleges, and private schools. The administrator ultimately responsible for hiring a teacher lacks the ability to say, ‘Your experience suggests that you need to fulfill this requirement, but these others can be waived.’ Alternative certification, like traditional certification, is still a matter of stipulations, credentials, and paperwork, to which no exceptions can be made.”
“Alternative certification first emerged a quarter-century ago. The concept was straightforward: make it less cumbersome for talented individuals without teaching degrees to enter the classroom.
Straightforward, yes, but plenty controversial. Education schools and their faculties took predictable umbrage at the suggestion that individuals could teach effectively without their tutelage. They felt disrespected and saw their livelihoods threatened. All those tuition dollars and state appropriations.
Their allies in teacher unions, government licensing agencies, and trade associations also voiced concern that such a move would diminish the ‘professionalism’ of teaching. If specialized training were no longer necessary, it implied that ‘anyone’ could teach—and thus that teaching was not truly a ‘skilled’ vocation.”
“…alternative certification has been co-opted, compromised, and diluted. Education schools—brilliantly turning a threat into an opportunity—have themselves come to dominate this enterprise, blurring the distinctions that once made it ‘alternative.’”
“Teacher educators make too few demands on their students. Research papers that encourage or require aspiring teachers to present anyone’s perspective other than their own are a rarity. In a randomly selected subsample of 75 syllabi, only eight (11 percent) courses required any sort of research paper. Most writing assignments generally call for the students’ own feelings and observations. The most common assignment is a ‘literacy memoir,’ which asks students to reflect on how they themselves learned to read as young children.
Further, no effort to develop practical application of knowledge is evident. Students rarely have to demonstrate their knowledge by writing and delivering lesson plans that apply the tools of reading instruction in a classroom setting.
Many professors place more emphasis on keeping their courses fun than on learning. This approach results in activities in which students rely on their own devices to teach literacy rather than on learning how to use well-tested, scientifically sound approaches.”
“The big idea here is that if teaching effectiveness is unrelated to training, then education school, and the teaching license it provides, should not be a prerequisite to a career in teaching. In fact, the current certification system is probably keeping out many college graduates who have the potential to be talented teachers.”
"Instead of the current hodgepodge approach to teacher certification and licensing, we propose that all prospective teachers in the United States take a rigorous bar exam that gauges mastery of subject-matter knowledge and demonstrates competency in how to teach it. The process could be modeled after the bar exam for lawyers or the board certification of medical doctors.
Teacher preparation is a high national priority in the countries that consistently top international academic rankings. It is past time for the U.S. to follow a similar path. Practicing teachers in K-12 and higher education should own responsibility for setting and enforcing the teaching profession's standards."
"I have worked as both a teacher and a lawyer. I was utterly petrified the first day I taught my own high-school students, whereas I was quite confident the first time I represented a client in a courtroom. My legal training included three years of formal study, clinical experience with established lawyers on real-world cases, and passing a grueling bar exam that the legal profession had deemed demonstrated the knowledge and ability to serve successfully as a new lawyer.
As an alternatively certified teacher, my preparation consisted of condensed coursework and valuable but limited student teaching—far less than I needed. Surveys of teachers show that many who go through traditional teacher-preparation programs feel they aren't adequately prepared to manage and teach students early in their career. Alternatively certified teachers feel even less prepared. Yet teachers assume an enormous responsibility from day one. And when they struggle, the response is too often the threat of termination, not an offer of assistance."