Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

"Highly Qualified Teacher" Requirements Challenged by Alternative Certification Proponents

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

"Highly Qualified Teacher" Requirements Challenged by Alternative Certification Proponents

Article excerpt

Two things that it. seems almost everyone in Congress can agree on: a high-quality teacher can be one of the most influential factors in student academic achievement, and there is a serious shortage in America of such good teachers.

So why then are some congressmen and educators now attacking the "Highly Qualified Teacher" (HQT) requirements, instituted by Congress in 2010 to ensure the training of good teachers throughout the United States?

"As a father of three young children, I've seen firsthand how positively kids respond when inspired and motivated by an exceptional teacher," said Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., R-Calif., chairman of the congressional Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. "Helping schools recruit, hire and retain more elective teachers is a top priority."

This session, his committee approved two pieces of legislation that Hunter claims will help schools identify the most talented teachers. But a "key pillar" in those proposals is a provision to eliminate the HQT requirements. "HQT's prescriptive requirements are outdated and widely criticized for placing undue emphasis on credentials and tenure, ultimately restricting schools' ability to hire the best teachers. Unless HQT requirements are repealed, our neediest schools will be prevented from hiring teachers certified through alternative pathways," Hunter said.

There arc a wide variety of alternative teacher certification programs throughout the country, offered by diverse educational institutions, including private, for-profit, nonprofit and even coiporate. On July 24 Hunter held a lively committee hearing to discuss the value of alternative teacher certificates diat allow individuals of all ages with postsecondary degrees to earn a teaching certificate without having to go back to college and complete a traditional teacher education program foliowing die HQT requirements.

"There is no one-size-fik-afl federal solution to help put effective teachers in the classroom," said Hunter.

The vice president for education policy at the liberal Washington, D.C., think tank the Center for American Progress agreed with Hunter. "Alternative certification programs are a promising strategy for increasing the supply of effective teachers and teacher education reform," Cynthia G. Brown said. "Teacher training policy must focus on teacher effectiveness more than on qualifications. This is true for traditional teacher preparation, where the great majority of American teachers are required to take a specified set of education courses, complete a practice teaching component and pass an exam in order to obtain a certificate. Alternative certification, by contrast, generally targets college graduates, streamlines required courses and focuses on intense practice teaching assignments.

Alternative leaching programs actually began in 1985 with the New Jersey provisional teacher program. By 2010, 45 states phis D.C. approved some type of alternate route and 21 percent of all teachers came from such training programs. Now, with the increasing need for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teachers, some of America's biggest corporations are stepping up with programs to retrain their retiring hightech employees who want to teach. A model is IBM's "Transition to Teaching" program, begun in 2006. …

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