Thursday, 3 February 2011

Alternative Certification

10 Reasons Alternative Certification Will Not Solve the Teacher Shortage
There is a serious teacher shortage in this country. Fifty percent of teachers leave the field within the first 5 years of their teachingcareer. Teachers leave the field for many reasons: dissatisfaction with the politics within the profession, being weak at classroom management, discovering that it requires much more time and effort than expected, family issues (birth of children or becoming caretakers of elderly family members), the stress of No Child Left Behind, and on and on. And, unfortunately, this shortage will only get worse as the baby-boomers start retiring in large numbers.
This teacher shortage has many consequences which are harmful to our children, our society, and our ability to compete in a global economy; and these consequences will have a negative impact on us for many years to come.
Our society can not continue to allow this to happen, so it is imperative that we figure out how to stop the loss. Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done. Different states are working on this issue in many different ways; but there is one "solution" being attempted in several states that I fear will do much more harm than good, and it will not solve the teacher shortage issue. In fact, it may very well make the problem worse.
This "solution" is most often called alternative certification. This means that rather than requiring teaching degrees (both a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree), student teaching, many education classes, and passing the required state tests; people from other careers are being encouraged into the teaching field on a very short track to certification. Most often, these "teachers" are placed into classrooms with NO training, and then they take education classes on weekends and during the summer. (Would you want your child to be in one of these classes?) I am extremely concerned about how this program will affect the field of education; but one thing I am sure of is that it is not going to solve the teacher shortage problem because:
1. Since these "teachers" don't have teaching degrees, they most likely never took a Human Growth and Development class. This course prepares you for what is and is not normal behavior at different ages. A certain behavior may really drive you nuts and you may want to punish the student, but if the behavior is normal and expected for that age, then punishment would be inappropriate - even harmful.
2. Since they do not have teaching degrees, they didn't do any student teaching. Student teaching separates the men from the boys as the old saying goes. People find out while still in college if they have what it takes to be an effective teacher. In addition, teaching is both art and science; and it is education courses and student teaching that give you the "science" of teaching.
3. Since teaching was not their first choice for a career, they are most likely teaching what they know, not what they love. Thus, they are missing the issue of passion for the subject. As a teacher, you can't instill a passion, say for mathematics, if you yourself do not possess it. They are lacking the "art" part of teaching
4. The lack of passion for the subject along with the fact that they are generally totally overwhelmed with the responsibilities of the job generally cause the teacher to be lacking in enthusiasm for the job or the students or the subject.
5. These "teachers" are woefully lacking in classroom management skills. This issue is what usually is encountered first by the retired military folks. They seriously think that the students will behave simply because they were told to. It does take SKILL to deal with teenagers in an effective way.
6. These "teachers" are generally weak in the how to explain department. They may know their subject, but teaching it is very different. And an effective teacher must be able to explain a given topic in many different ways.
7. Most of these "teachers" do not know what task analysis is, so they are incapable of doing it.
8. These "teachers" become disillusioned easily because the students are much more difficult to control than they thought, teaching is much harder work than they expected, and the time required is much greater than they expected. Having to take education classes on the weekends and in the summer leaves little time for school preparation and no time for their families.
9. The necessary "people skills" are often missing. Teaching requires working with administration, teachers in your own department, teachers in other departments, "newbies" (new teachers who often need help), many parents - supportive or not, and many, many students - all of whom come to you with their own set of issues. And those students expect that you will work with them in the way that is best for them.
10. The drop out rate for these "teachers" is incredibly high - at least twice the rate for regular classroom teachers.
Harvard University recently released results of a study that indicated that we rank 31st out of 56 countries in mathematics and that only 6% of our high school students take upper level mathematics courses. Harvard's suggested solution was better teacher preparation and more highly qualified teachers. Is alternative certification what they had in mind? With the baby boomers approaching retirement, No Child Left Behind forcing our best teachers out of the profession, and alternative certification obviously not able to fill the need, how are we going to solve this problem? One thing I do know is that NCLB needs to be eliminated. What person in their right mind would enter the teaching field now if they fully understood what is happening with the punishments that are being imposed by NCLB?
I just read today that President Obama is likely to lessen the punishment part of NCLB, but I fear that will be too little too late. The damage is done. Now we need to fix it. I am extremely concerned and you should be concerned, too. We need everyone to be concerned. Give this lots of thought. Talk to your friends and colleagues about it. We need new and fresh ideas. We need our country's best minds (not politicians) working on this issue. I shudder to think what will happen if we don't find a solution soon.


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