November 16, 2009
Current Expertise Basis for Proposed Teacher Licensing
One steadfast way of gauging the effect of proposed policy changes is to see who lines up against them. Take for example State School Superintendent Tony Bennett’s recommended changes to teacher and administrator licensing rules. Dr. Bennett proposes that applicants for teacher licenses have more education on content areas (like math and science) at the expense of coursework on how students learn (pedagogy).
This proposal has mightily discomfited the educational establishment. The focus from these folks has been overwhelmingly focused on how the new rules would inconvenience those who plan and administer teacher education. The dean of at least one state teacher’s college even went so far as to express concern on how it would trouble his school’s curriculum!
These positions are ham-handed, and off point. What matters is student performance. It bears a constant reminder that in this arena, U.S. schools, and ours in Indiana, face an unpleasant set of facts. At the high school level, U.S. student performance has plunged to the bottom of the developed world. Yet, teacher training in the U.S. is far more dominated by pedagogy than in the other developed countries. If anything, Dr. Bennett’s reforms are too timid.
There is also a heavy dose of job protection in the response to this proposal. One result has been a mobilization of teachers, administrators and even college students in an old style turf battle. The facts here are also tough going for Indiana’s status quo.
Take yours truly as an example. Over the past twenty years, the U.S. Army thought it wise for me to command 300 soldiers and be responsible for $50 million in facilities and equipment. This experience is valuable in lots of places, just not as a school administrator. To do that job would require at least two more years of undergraduate courses at a teacher’s college.
Likewise, three universities have entrusted me to teach economics to 18-year-olds, but to teach the same material to a 17-year-old at the local high school is out of the question. It would require at least two more years of coursework at a teachers’ college.
At a time when we are desperate for science and math teachers and several big firms are laying off scientists we should be jumping at the chance to get them into the classroom. But under current rules their content knowledge isn’t sufficient they’d all need two more years in college. The stance of Indiana’s educational establishment on this issue is outrageous.
What bothers me most about this issue is unfair impression it gives of our State’s teachers and administrators. By succumbing to sordid job protectionism, the educational establishment in Indiana makes it seem as if our classroom teachers need protecting. They don’t. The good ones (who are a majority) will do just fine whatever the licensing rules. We need to open the door to men and women who can teach and know the subject matter, and not be troubled about the amount of time they spend at a teacher’s college.
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