The extent to which the profession changes can be influenced by Tisch herself: she went on to say that the state Education Department is looking to "redesign teacher certification," as The Chalkboard previously (reported).
What form the Department's plan for teacher preparation and certification will take remains to be seen. But the federal government appears to be on this train. U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, today is speaking at Teachers College at Columbia University and is calling for "revolutionary change" in teacher preparation programs.
For starters, Duncan is critical of current ed school programs for not adequately training teachers to use test score data to drive instruction and for managing the classroom, particularly for high-needs students. The Associated Press reports today from an advanced copy of the Duncan speech.
Commissioner David Steiner is a co-founder of Teacher U at Hunter College where he was Dean of the School of Education. As Dean, Steiner described ed schools as having a disconnect to the classroom: "[F]or so long there's been a divide between the schools of education and the work that teachers do in the classroom." Given the Commissioner's background, I'm optimistic the state Education Department will propose something meaningful to reform teacher preparation and certification.
Teacher U was established to prepare teachers to meet the very shortcomings described by Secretary Duncan so that students would be better served. Not surprisingly, it was a partnership with charter school organizations, KIPP, Uncommon Schools and Achievement First, that joined with Hunter College. As charter school operators, they must improve student academic outcomes and need an expanding pool of teachers that are better trained and result-oriented to accomplish this.
What is clear so far is that schools of education are headed for a makeover. But it shouldn't stop there. Teacher certification itself should be relaxed to allow for more professionals to become teachers without having to be traditionally certified, even if ed schools do (someday) improve by the force of new state and federal policy.
Charter schools in New York, for example, can hire a limited number of teachers--too few, in my opinion--with at least one of the qualifications in lieu of certification, including: having at least three years of classroom teaching experience; tenured or tenure track college faculty; two years of satisfactory experience with the Teach for America program; or individuals who possess "exceptional business, professional, artistic, athletic, or military experience."
School districts should have this same flexibility to hire non-certified teachers with one of these alternative credentials , except it shouldn't be limited to the lesser of 30 percent of the teaching staff or five teachers in a school. These thresholds should be substantially raised for all public schools--charter and district.
Making teacher certification more flexible by providing alternatives is a great place to start for the state Education Department's "regulatory audit" mentioned last weekend by Chancellor Tisch to "free schools to innovate."
We should be able to trust superintendents and principals to employ qualified individuals to teach with alternative certification and be judged by their results rather than having to trust a piece of paper from most ed schools that the state ed commissioner and now education secretary have discredited.
for The Chalkboard
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