Too "radical" or "risky"?
Education Secretary Rod Paige has come out in favor of the proposed teacher certification exam that will allow experts and professionals without education degrees to teach:
Education Secretary Rod Paige has joined a rebellion against sole reliance on traditional teacher certification, saying teacher colleges should no longer have a monopoly over who is qualified to educate children. Mr. Paige yesterday endorsed the new American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), whose mission is to certify subject experts, experienced professionals and military veterans as public school teachers, even if they don't have degrees in education.
"Some people will argue that this change is too radical, that it's too risky, that we should maintain the status quo," Mr. Paige said at a National Press Club event with board leaders. "Well, I agree that it's radical. It's radically better than the system we have now, a system that drives thousands of talented people away from our classrooms."
The ABCTE, started in the fall with a $5 million federal grant from the Department of Education, set off a firestorm of objections from education groups that argued that the approach was a "quick and easy" solution bent on "devaluing professional knowledge" and rushing teachers into the classroom.
As opposed to university education programs, which often do a miserable job of teaching aspiring teachers anything about their chosen academic field? If anything devalues professional knowledge, it's the academic system of teacher education; how else could we have arrived at the situation in which one-third of secondary school math teachers have undergone no substantial math education? And the numbers only get worse when one focuses on the high-poverty schools.
The ABCTE's "assessments maintain extremely rigorous academic standards for teachers," [Secretary Paige] said. "Individuals must be true scholars to earn this credential. And it provides an innovative option for individuals who would be turned off by the hoops and hurdles of traditional teacher preparation and certification programs. It focuses on what teachers need to know and be able to do in order to be effective, instead of the number of credits or courses they've taken. It demands excellence rather than exercises in filling bureaucratic requirements."
Amen. Alternative teacher certification is certainly not a new idea, and it requires a set of standards and rigorous testing. It will be interesting to see what they develop.