Friday, December 19, 2008

The 'Certified' Teacher Myth: It doesn't help classroom performance

I heartily agree with this. I got excellent results as a High School teacher without having had one minute of teacher training. Subject knowledge and a bit of self-confidence is all you need

Like all unions, teachers unions have a vested interest in restricting the labor supply to reduce job competition. Traditional state certification rules help to limit the supply of "certified" teachers. But a new study suggests that such requirements also hinder student learning.

Harvard researchers Paul Peterson and Daniel Nadler compared states that have genuine alternative certification with those that have it in name only. And they found that between 2003 and 2007 students in states with a real alternative pathway to teaching gained more on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (a federal standardized test) than did students in other states.

"In states that had genuine alternative certification, test-score gains on the NAEP exceeded those in the other states by 4.8 points and 7.6 points in 4th- and 8th-grade math, respectively," report the authors in the current issue of Education Next. "In reading, the additional gains in the states with genuine alternative certification were 10.6 points and 3.9 points for the two grade levels respectively."

The study undermines the arguments from colleges of education and teachers unions, which say that traditional certification, which they control, is the only process that can produce quality teachers. The findings hold up even after controlling for race, ethnicity, free-lunch eligibility, class size and per-pupil state spending.

The study also found that loosening certification rules can help alleviate teacher shortages. Unions blame these shortages on low pay, though in Washington, D.C. now they are also refusing an offer of higher pay in return for giving up teacher tenure. Messrs. Peterson and Nadler show that broader recruitment paths can also address shortages, particularly among minority teachers who are in especially short supply.

This is important because there is broad agreement that minority students tend to benefit from having a minority instructor, who can also serve as a role model. And it turns out that black and Hispanic college graduates are much more likely to take advantage of alternative paths to certification.

"Minorities are represented in the teaching force to a greater extent in states with genuine alternative certification than in other states," write the authors, who conclude, "there is every reason to believe that alternative certification is key to recruiting more minorities into the teaching profession." In Mississippi, 60% of the more than 800 teachers who were alternatively certified in 2004-05 were minorities, even though the overall teaching force in the state is only 26% minority.

President-elect Barack Obama has expressed guarded support for education reforms like merit pay and charter schools. Yet he chose Linda Darling-Hammond to head the education policy team for his transition. Ms. Darling-Hammond, a professor at Stanford, is a union favorite and vocal supporter of traditional certification. She's also been a fierce critic of Teach for America and other successful alternative certification programs.

Unions claim that traditional certification serves the interests of students. But it's clear that students would be better served if the teaching profession were open to more college graduates. Teachers learn by teaching, not by mastering the required "education" courses associated with state certification.

Far from regulating teacher quality, forcing prospective teachers to take a specific set of education-related courses merely deters college graduates who might otherwise consider teaching. That outcome may serve the goals of labor unions, but it's hard to see how it helps the kids. If we want better teachers and more of them, relaxing certification standards would be a good place to start.


Australia: Destructive Victorian government meddling in education

The never-ending Leftist attack on discipline

Angry state school principals have attacked a plan by the Brumby Government to curtail their power to suspend and expel unruly students. They say that a move to suspend students a maximum of three days in a row would seriously undermine state education and drive more middle-class families into private schools. "In the case of a serious assault or the selling of drugs to other students, three days is simply inadequate and sends a terrible message to other members of the school community," said a submission by a principals' group.

The Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals was responding to draft student behaviour guidelines released by the Education Department. As revealed by the Herald Sun last week, the proposals include plans to suspend students for a maximum three days instead of 10 now. The total days a student could be suspended in a year would be cut from 20 to 15. And principals would have less power to expel students, with education bureaucrats given the right to overturn decisions.

The VASSP's submission said that the draft guidelines were part of an unrelenting campaign to wind back the autonomy of Victorian principals. "The proposed guidelines completely undermine the role of the principal and school council president," it said. That a bureaucrat, often with no school-leadership experience, is considered better placed to make this judgment is an insult to dedicated school leaders, the submission said.

The submission included comments by several principals and assistant principals, such as: "This is unarguably the greatest threat to the good order of our schools that we have seen. "It is designed by 'do gooders' with no actual concept of what occurs within a school."

Education Minister Bronwyn Pike has said the Government wants a bigger focus on schools preventing bad behaviour before suspensions were required. Ms Pike is expected to release the revised guidelines early next year after considering submissions.


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