In a Nov. 14th post, the luminous Eduwonkette raises the issue of why there is so much attention paid to teacher certification in the United States. Drawing on the teacher quality research of Richard Ingersoll – who calls for “upgrading training and certification standards” — the erudite Ms. 'Kette raises questions about the often intense (dare I say vitriolic) calls by Washington DC pundits and media-types to do away with teacher certification standards.
The certification critics often cite Tom Kane’s research that shows little difference in the student achievement scores of the new teachers who enter through traditional (more extended, university-based) and alternative (short-cut training) certification regimes. There are methodological holes in the Kane study – but that is not the point to be taken here. The issue is not “certification or not” – or “teacher education or Teach for America.” The issue is what teachers need to know before they begin to teach and how our education system ensures they do know – so kids do not get harmed.
So here is my initial short list for a new kind of teacher certification system. It must be one that ensures novices know how to: (1) find the right kind of standards-based teaching resources for the diverse students they teach; (2) work well with second language and special needs learners; (3) use and analyze student achievement data for improving teaching, (4) create effective classroom management systems for 21st century learning, and (5) work well with parents and families and draw on community resources to serve their students.
Our solicitous Eduwonkette makes the point that other professions do not have their certification systems so scrutinized — and in some cases even vilified. What if we halted the vitriolic debate and considered what we want our teachers to know and do– and then supported them in their efforts to serve our nation’s students and their families?
And why don’t we transcend the debate over who should be recruited to teaching and how much preparation they should have--by discarding the idea that one teacher is solely responsible for 25 students? Instead, we can create policies that promote our best teachers to serve as supervisors and coaches of a wide range of novices, adjuncts, and teaching assistants who collectively work with large groups of students. What could dynamic support do for the retention and quality of all new teachers?