Make it easier to become a teacher and tougher to stay one.
The Indiana State Board of Education voted last week to make it a little easier to become a teacher or school administrator in this state, and a lot of people invested in the status quo are quite upset about it. Current teachers and members of the teachers colleges that turn them out say the looser requirements will mean subjecting our children to lesser-qualified educators.
But that’s true only if we are to believe that the current credentialing process is turning out the best teachers possible. Just a cursory look at the kind of education being provided today should discredit that notion in a hurry.
Under the changes, a new “adjunct teacher permit” would be created allowing any bachelor’s degree holder with a 3.0 grade-point average and who can pass a subject test to teach that subject in a classroom. That would allow new teachers to bypass the traditional path to the classroom – spending four or more years learning about everything from teaching techniques to child psychology.
The benefits of choosing some teachers under the new rules should be immediately obvious. For years, classrooms have suffered from teachers who are intimately aware of how to teach but may or may not know anything about the what they supposed to be teaching. The change will allow schools to bring in teachers with better knowledge of the subject than of how it is supposed to be taught. That’s what “adjunct professors” have added to the college environment, and there’s no reason to think they won’t at the middle and high school level as well.
The ultimate success of the new path to the classroom will depend on follow-through – whether officials monitor the new teachers and rate their progress rather than just throwing them in front of the kids and forgetting about it. The education board’s instructions seem to take care of that – adjunct permit holders are required to take a teacher training course once they start teaching, and they must be rated “effective” or “highly effective” in three of their first five years to continue teaching. How those requirements work out in the real world remains to be seen.
It doesn’t really matter that much how we get our teachers. What we have them do and how we judge their effectiveness once they’re in the classroom are what count. Until now, we’ve made it made it hard to become a teacher and been reluctant to rate them once we’ve hired them, as if going unjudged is a reward for having gotten in. If we reverse that by making it easier to become a teacher but judging their effectiveness more stringently, can the results really be any worse?