Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Michigan Must Reform Teacher Certification Requirements by Akindele Akinyemi

I went to two teacher job fairs last week. One was at Eastern Michigan University and the other one was at Wayne State University.

The states that were recruiting teachers were from places like Arizona, New Mexico, Virginia, Florida, Maryland, and even West Virginia. When I asked them about teacher certification requirements these recruiters told me that they have alternative teacher preparation programs in place to help people become certified.

Under the Michigan School Code there is a fast track teacher preparation program:

380.1531c Fast-track teacher preparation program.

Sec. 1531c. The state board shall develop and approve, and advocate to state universities that they adopt, an expedited “fast-track” teacher preparation program to be available to individuals who have outstanding academic credentials, who are exceptionally gifted performers or artists, or who are outstanding professionals expert in their fields of endeavor.

If this law exist then how come NO ONE is utilizing it?

What I have noticed in Michigan is this fraternity of teacher certified instructors. They look down on those who are non-certified (even though some of these non-certified instructors can teach the subject far better than their certified peers). Even employers buy into the hype of not hiring teachers who are not certified even though the School Code says this:

380.1233b Teaching of certain courses by noncertificated, nonendorsed teacher;requirements; effect of ability to engage certificated, endorsed teacher;

Sec. 1233b. (1) Except as provided in subsection (3), the board of a local or intermediate school district may engage a full-time or part-time noncertificated, nonendorsed teacher to teach a course in computer science, a foreign language, mathematics, biology, chemistry, engineering, physics, robotics, or in another subject area determined by the state board to be appropriate to be included under this section and so designated by the state board, or any combination of these subject areas, in grades 9 through 12.

(2) Subject to subsection (3), a noncertificated, nonendorsed teacher is qualified to teach pursuant to this section if he or she meets all of the following minimum requirements:

(a) Possesses an earned bachelor's degree from an accredited postsecondary institution.

(b) Has a major or a graduate degree in the field of specialization in which he or she will teach.

(c) If the teacher desires to teach for more than 1 year, has passed both a basic skills examination and a subject area examination, if a subject area examination exists, in the field of specialization in which he or she will teach.

(d) Except in the case of persons engaged to teach a foreign language, has, in the 5-year period immediately preceding the date of hire, not less than 2 years of occupational experience in the field of specialization in which he or she will teach.

(3) The requirements listed in subsection (2) for a teacher engaged to teach pursuant to this section shall be in addition to any other requirements established by the board of a local or intermediate school district, as applicable.

(4) Except as provided in subsection (5), the board of a local or intermediate school district shall not engage a full-time or part-time noncertificated, nonendorsed teacher to teach a course described in subsection (1) if the district is able to engage a certificated, endorsed teacher.

(5) If the board of a local or intermediate school district is able to engage a certificated, endorsed teacher to teach a course described in subsection (1), the local or intermediate school board may employ or continue to employ a noncertificated, nonendorsed teacher to teach the course if both of the following conditions are met:

(a) The noncertificated, nonendorsed teacher is annually and continually enrolled and completing credit in an approved teacher preparation program leading to a provisional teaching certificate.

(b) The noncertificated, nonendorsed teacher has a planned program leading to teacher certification on file with the employing school district or intermediate school district, his or her teacher preparation institution, and the department of education.

To tell yout the facts: teacher certification does not work in the long run. I love how Detroit Public Schools run false ads on TV talking about how charter school teachers are not certified. However, DPS is only graduating 24% of its students.

Detroit Public Schools brag about how charter schools do not have certified teachers. Let's say 90% of charters DO NOT HAVE teachers in the classroom who are certified. Did anyone STOP to think why charter MEAP scores keep rising year after year? What about the LONG waiting list to get into these schools?

Let me be clear. Certified does not mean qualified. The whole teacher certification is a money grab. A doctor, a lawyer or engineer do not have to go back to school for an additional endorsement. Teachers have to spend MORE MONEY to get an additional endorsement.

Now, teachers who fail to meet the School Code’s NEW certification requirements are decertified by the state. Decertified teachers lose their job as well as the system-wide seniority accumulated in the district.

Remember: Even if the teacher is rehired, that teacher starts at the first-year level in seniority.

-- A Provisional Teaching Certificate will not be renewed unless the individual successfully completes within the first six years of employment at least a three-credit course of study with appropriate field experience in diagnosis, remediation of reading disabilities and differentiation.

-- An individual shall not advance to the Professional Education Certificate unless he or she successfully completes the three-credit course of study mentioned above.

According to School Code, newly certified teachers must complete 18 hours of education courses in their first six years. (The reading requirements can be fulfilled as part of the 18 hours.)Teachers with more than six years’ experience must complete six hours of education classes every five years.

The problem is not certification the problem is the lack of flexible programs available to be certified. The whole certification thing in this state has gotten so bad that even private schools are requiring people to be certified and they do not even receive Title I money. It is a huge scam to discourage people going into education. Teacher certification does not correlate with quality education in the classroom. Proof of this is you will find teachers leaving the entire field of education after 3 years.

Kate Walsh of the Abell Foundation identified seven well-designed studies of the effects of teacher certification on student achievement. All of them concluded that “New teachers who are certified do not produce greater student gains than new teachers who are not certified.

Any candidate who is running for public office this year should take the following recommendations. It could almost guarantee you victory.

1. Michigan should eliminate the coursework requirements for teacher certification, in favor of
much simpler and more flexible rules for entry. The only fixed requirement should be a bachelor’s degree and a passing score on an appropriate teacher’s exam. This exam must assess foremost a teacher’s verbal ability, along with the basic knowledge and skills needed by an elementary teacher, including knowledge of research-based reading instruction, and the specialized content knowledge needed by secondary teachers.

2. As an accountability measure, the Michigan Department of Education should report the
average verbal ability score of teachers in each school district and of teacher candidates graduating from the State’s schools of education.

3. School districts and principals should rely on more productive methods for helping teachers
gain the instructional skills and knowledge needed to be effective: comprehensive new
teacher induction programs, reduced teaching loads for first-year teachers, ongoing professional
development closely associated with the curriculum, including the teaching of reading, and outcomes-based performance evaluation.

The current approach to training and certifying teachers here in Michigan deters and disqualifies many people interested in teaching, yet still does not adequately guarantee the quality of teachers who are licensed. The problem is that our current approach creates “paper barriers” instead of connecting would-be teachers with opportunities to get the skills they need to begin teaching and helping them develop a professional career path.

To attract more talented and qualified people to the teaching profession, Michigan state lawmakers should promote an innovative approach to becoming certified. One approach is to eliminate the barriers that often deter talented students and professionals from pursuing teaching jobs. Instead of mandating that teaching applicants have a degree in education, this approach requires potential teachers to have: 1) a bachelor of arts or sciences degree from an accredited university; 2) a passing grade on a competency test in the subject they seek to teach; and 3) a clean criminal record. The premise of this approach is to allow any applicant who meets these criteria to be considered for the job, whether or not they are prepared to start teaching.

Instead of focusing on barriers to teaching, policymakers should emphasize induction and training activities for the teachers. While research finds that traditional education courses do not impact student achievement, emphasizing quality, ongoing professional development shows much more promise. Meaningful recruitment and induction programs can include mentoring projects with fellow teachers, additional coursework, and professional collaboration. Policymakers can also fuel excellence by allowing schools of education, community colleges, nonprofit organizations, and other providers to compete for these new, expanded opportunities to train teachers. Depending on their needs and values, states and cities will take different approaches to eliminating statutory and financial barriers to applying for teaching jobs, but all states and the District of Columbia now offer some type of alternative certification. Michigan will not enforce their law because they claim there is a teacher surplus. This is simply not true.

Such an overhaul represents a direct threat to schools of education and other education groups
that benefit from the flawed certification process. Although these groups will readily admit that the teacher preparation system is in dire need of repair, their reform agenda consistently leads to heavier state regulation, more time for prospective teachers in schools of education, and a crackdown emergency permits.

I am beginning to understand why there are so many women in education. They are the main ones setting up the barriers. Most teacher unions are ran by women. Most principals in any urban school are ran by women. Just here in Detroit, we only have 35 Black male principals in the entire school district. Even the person who wants to reform Detroit Public Schools as a first class district (by dropping the number of students from 100,000 to 75,000) is a woman (Rep. Bettie Cook Scott). The two State Senators from Detroit who are against any form of charters or alternative certification are women (Irma Clark-Coleman and Martha G. Scott). Most of these women who I talk to in DPS (who are teachers, principals, curriculum specialists, Human Resources, etc) are against any form of alternative teacher certification requirements. I never knew until recently when a principal told me that going the traditional route keep us (women) in control.

In control? Black males in the classrooms are highly disrespectful towards their female peers. What control? I began to put two and two together and realized that feminism runs rampant in the school system. This is why we have a large number of lesbian gangs in the middle and high schools in Detroit Public Schools. It's these same female administrators that support anti-bullying legislation in Lansing to protect these lesbians in their schools. Not one Detroit Lawmaker has stepped up and drafted a bill to promote alternative routes to certification.

Meanwhile, young men do not have anyone to look up to as a positive role model so we lose our boys to the streets. Alternative routes to certification would begin to close the gender gap by an influx of Black males going into the field of education. As long as women think they can raise a boy into a man this educational crisis will be an ongoing catastrophe.

I read a report that describe current practice regarding requirements for teaching nationally and in North Carolina, and summarizes research comparing traditionally prepared (TP) teachers and those who enter teaching through alternative routes (ALT). These comparisons revealed that alternative programs attracted a large number of candidates, including higher proportions of Black males than traditional programs, and that test scores of alternative candidates were strong. That's in North Carolina. How come we cannot bring the same thing to Michigan?

The facts:

1. New teachers come disproportionately from the bottom third of American college students.

2. Between 1993 and 1994, the SAT scores of individuals becoming public school teachers averaged 923; the average of those entering other professions was nearly 80 points higher.

3. Between 1995 and 1998, individuals taking the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) intending to work in education had the lowest combined scores of any group.

4. From 1982 to 1999, the percentage of teachers with a baccalaureate degree in a subject area fell from 28 to 23 percent.

5. From 1982 to 1999, the percentage of teachers with a master's degree in a subject area fell from 17 to 5 percent.

This despite the fact that:

6. 89.5 percent of teachers were certified in 1982, the same percentage as today.

7. Since 1982, real (inflation adjusted) teacher pay has risen 12%.

The same time that Michigan should be seeking teaching candidates with solid content knowledge and high verbal ability, our system of teacher certification is thwarting the aspirations of our most talented individuals - while at the same time maintaining low academic standards and failing to prepare teachers for the reality of the classroom.

The sad thing in Michigan is the fact that academic research attempting to link teacher certification with student achievement is astonishingly deficient. Research that has not been subjected to peer review is treated without skepticism, and there is a heavy reliance on unpublished dissertations. Instead of using standardized measures of student achievement, advocates of certification design their own assessment measures to prove certification's value. Basic principles of sound statistical analysis, which are taken for granted in other academic disciplines, are violated routinely.

It would seem that teacher certification confers no greater benefit in this state than in any other. What does make a difference is a combination of school autonomy and parental choice. When school principals are free to hire anyone they want, but are forced by competitive pressures to hire only the best-qualified people they can find, they usually make wise selections.

Instead, we have built a school system that would not even hire Bill Gates or Dr. Condoleeza Rice (even though this woman can speak multiple languages, play piano and has traveled the entire world). How come DPS or charter schools will never hire Dr. Condoleeza Rice to teach Government? Because she is not certified. What a joke.

The State of Maryland have 66 teacher certification routes. Michigan only has 1. It's no wonder people are moving to the East Coast to teach. I hope we can find some people running for office to step up and support alternative teacher certification. The present teacher certification process is no good.

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