“No profession improves in response to lower standards,” said Dawn Penich-Thacker, a spokeswoman with Save Our Schools Arizona, and I could hug her for it. While some of you may want to say “Thanks, Captain Obvious”, our society has gotten so dumb that we have to keep repeating simple, inescapable truths.
Every politician loves education, and very few question establishment educational dogma, lest being labeled “anti-education”, which means you hate kids and want them to work in the coal mines. But looky, looky, teachers aren’t paid enough to attract the best candidates and so shortages have ensued, prompting school boards and states governments to shrug a sheepish “weeelllllll, geez, maybe we have been to tough on them.” “But enrollment in teacher preparation programs has also plunged 42% to 418,573 in the 2014-2015 school year from six years earlier, according to the latest figures from U.S. Department of Education.” The governor of Arizona has directed that local authorities determine teacher qualification, that initiative being opposed by Ms. Penich-Thacker. Minnesota has a tiered system to determine teaching competency, and is not requiring a shortage-afflicted district to show that a higher-tier teacher was not available prior to hiring a lower-tier, conditional teacher. Kansas, Utah, Connecticut, and Colorado all tell similar stories. Rural areas are becoming the most acutely hit, in areas where the available pay simply isn’t commensurate with the workload, or attractive to candidates with plentiful options.
“Recruitment is especially difficult for teaching, known for its low salaries and difficult state-issued credentials, say experts and state education officials. Some school administrators say that higher teacher wages could help offset vacancies, but such a recurring cost could strain already tight budgets.”
These school types are going about this all wrong. For starters, most subs could probably be claimed to be competent in teaching 90% of the material, and should only have to call on fully trained educators for the really tricky classes (“With no end in sight for Connecticut’s teacher shortage that has been worsening for the past five years, Dianna Wentzell, commissioner of Connecticut’s Education Department, said she wants to simplify the teacher certification process, such as allowing teachers to instruct more than one subject in science.”). And we have seen in other <ahem> fields, a good attitude and stated interest in helping others should count for at least as much as training and experience. “No longer will an outdated process keep qualified, dedicated individuals out of the classroom,” said the Arizona governor.
Connecticut’s “Ms. Wentzell said it is important for every teacher to be prepared to teach, but added it is equally important to make sure students have enough teachers.” And if not?
Our education friends have health care’s example to follow: when there is a shortage of highly trained, specialized professionals who won’t sacrifice themselves to the community’s need, simply proclaim more flexible standards, hire some substitutes, and use them to appease the public and bludgeon the more highly trained holdouts. It may go without saying that degreed, professional educators should be given a lot of extra “quality” targets to meet, and that their reporting requirements need to be more detailed, just to make sure they are really doing a good job. Extra certification demands, particularly on a national level, would be an excellent move (“No Child Left Behind” being a good, if way too timid start). Seriously, can you really have too much CME? Those are all great ways to increase supply. Just quit badgering people over silly standards like formal, targeted education, and experience.
And ignore the sage warning that “No profession improves in response to lower standards.” On the contrary, the LELT community seems to be doing just fine with them.