Magazine article The American Enterprise

Good Teachers through the Back Door

Magazine article The American Enterprise

Good Teachers through the Back Door

Article excerpt

When Abigail Thernstrom lectured at Cornell's law school recently, she asked the students, "How many of you would be interested in teaching if the entry requirements changed, the level of professionalism improved, and you could choose a school that matched your educational philosophy?" Thernstrom reports an "astonishing number of hands went up."

An outspoken member of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, Thernstrom wasn't asking out of idle curiosity. She and her colleagues are intent on revamping the teaching profession in the state from the bottom up. At the Board's April 26 meeting, Commissioner David Driscoll proposed an alternative certification route that would allow teacher candidates to completely bypass the notorious teacher colleges that currently monopolize classroom credentials. Would-be teachers with a bachelor's degree in the subject they intend to teach could become certified by first passing the Massachusetts teacher test (currently failed at infamously high rates by teacher-college graduates), then attending a summer institute for six to eight weeks and taking some evening and weekend follow-up sessions during the first academic year.

The purpose of alternative certification is to create a fast and inexpensive way for qualified beginning teachers and mid-career professionals to enter the classroom by breaking the education establishment's iron lock on teacher training. The implications have not escaped local union leaders. Kathy Kelley, president of the Massachusetts Federation of Teachers, says she "has two concerns about the proposal: quality and quantity. You can't just have a six- to eight-week program and some [school year] sessions and expect the same results."

Other states such as Texas use weekend and evening sessions to provide beginning teachers with additional formal training as well as opportunities to ask questions based on their real experiences in the classroom. By contrast, traditional certification procedures tend to leave teachers high and dry once they've completed the degree requirements. …

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