State departments of education and collegiate schools of education have put in place over the years a system for certifying schoolteachers that rewards process over substance. Requirements for mind-numbing courses in the intricacies of professional education deter many bright young people, as well as career-switchers, from becoming teachers.
The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF), funded by the Carnegie and Rockefeller commissions, sharply criticized the existing system, but advocates in its place a system even more beholden to special education interests, notably including the two major teacher unions, the NEA and AFT. NCTAF would put in the hands of an NEA puppet – the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) – exclusive authority for certifying all schools of education in the nation.
NCATE has an ideological agenda – i.e., seeking to inculcate a “multiculturalist” world-view in all new teachers – as is evident from its links not only to the NEA but to a variety of other radical organizations. In any event, handing NCATE absolute power would make public education even more of a monopoly than it is now.
An alternative embracing true reform would allow principals, in consultation with their teachers, to hire the brightest individuals available, whether they were education majors or degree-holders in disciplines like English, history, mathematics, and science. A promising approach would combine thoughtful reforms now underway in New Jersey and Tennessee. New Jersey permits schools to hire teachers from outside the ed-school track and then puts them under the tutelage of mentor teachers to learn on the job such duties as preparing lesson plans. Tennessee has instituted a system called value-added assessment, a sophisticated statistical tool making it possible to show how well each teacher is helping his or her students advance academically.
A combination of New Jersey’s alternative certification and Tennessee’s value-added assessment could get the brightest possible teachers in the classrooms and then base rewards or penalties on documented evidence of how much they were helping raise the level of student achievement. That would be a vast improvement over the current system, which barely takes achievement into account at all.
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