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Widening the pool of talent for education

Friday, April 5, 2013 - 12:01 am

By looking beyond those with credentials.

Lost among all the debates about school vouchers and charters have been a couple of education reform proposals worth celebrating, one of them already implemented and one under consideration.

The one in place, approved in December by the State Board of Education, allows anyone with a bachelor's degree and a 3.6 grade point average to pass a subject test and qualify to teach that subject to middle and high school students. The one in the wings, approved by the Senate Education committee this week, would no longer require superintendents to hold a state superintendent's or teacher's license.

The obvious benefit of both proposals is that they'll allow school districts to considerably broaden the pool of talent they select from when they go out looking for teachers and superintendents.

For teachers, they won't have to rely just on education school graduates who have been carefully instructed on how to teach but may or may not have a grasp of the subject matter. They will be able to search among those who are proven experts in their fields or for the ones with the greatest knack for teaching.

For superintendents, they won't have to just settle for those well-versed in negotiating (and helping create) bureaucratic mazes. They will be able to look for those who have shown they know how to be effective leaders in their other endeavors.

As is often the case, the main objections are raised by the people already enjoying the benefits of credentialing who do not want competition from anyone who doesn't have to go through the same hoops. Critics say they doubt the ability of a new teacher who has not been trained in child development, child psychology and multiple teaching techniques. Letting in just anybody as a superintendent, they argue, will open the door to possible cronyism. And how can someone without any classroom experience possible know what to do?

But the goal should always be to get the best people possible, regardless of which path they took. Just because the pool of talent is widened, that doesn't mean standards have to be lowered.