Head + Sand = Marginal

photo from wallygrom (very busy at work)

Again, it all seems to start in Texas.

That’s why Molly Ivins called the Texas legislature the National Laboratory for Bad Ideas.

Bad ideas migrate up (and in this case, east). Congress wants to think about opening the floodgates to get everybody teaching. Senate Bill 1250 is set to fund “teacher academies,” where those who have earned bachelor’s degrees can become teachers without the hassle of further college coursework. The new plan would streamline the process, making it possible for working professionals (and currently-unemployed amateurs) to start handling teaching duties more quickly.

Academy teachers would not need any advanced degree, nor would they need to pursue scholarly research. If you can hire a teacher-trainer who didn’t plunk down $20,000 for a graduate degree and pay your new hire less, then I guess the need for colleges of education is…

Oh, yeah. One more thing: the academies wouldn’t need to be accredited.

Things would be different if there were a shortage, but there isn’t one. Teacher layoffs are now an accepted part of the educational landscape. Further, there was never really a shortage of teachers–there was a shortage of those who were properly certified that were willing to teach. As early as 2000, Missouri had more than twice as many people certified to teach as they did teachers.

Academia jumped into the fray. They wrote a letter. The letter was, “signed by the American Council on Education, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, among others.”

The worst part of this is that most academics figure that this should (or will!) take care of matters. They have spoken. They are experts. People will listen. A key issue with the academic world is that it fails to listen to anything across the street from a campus, let alone thousands of miles away. But decisions are being made, and this one will hurt if it comes to pass. Teachers unions have been fighting these “academy” training programs on the basis of professionalism, but academics have always been content to look the other way in disgust and call it good.

It’s a Senate bill. It ends with a zero. It’s on paper, and it is scheduled for a hearing. The past year or so, the bill went from an idea to a means of destruction. The response? A letter. Nobody will organize. Nobody got involved until it was too late. So nobody’s listening. Now it’s just a matter of political will, and that doesn’t bode well for a group of people that find themselves above such matters.

This is a perfect example of the ivory tower. At one point, alternative certification was abnormal. After all, you’d have to drop what you were doing and get licensed. Today, that’s not the case. Instead, you can teach almost instantly after garnering a bachelor’s degree in anything down here. Anything. Degree in Psychology? Pass the test and instantly become eligible to become a middle school science teacher.

As long as you’re paying a “certifying agent,” that is.  That will be $4,000. Thank you. Alternatively certified teachers make up the supermajority of new teachers in Texas now. You just don’t need a teaching degree to teach in Texas. Some programs are fine. Others are run out of bail bonds companies. Still others (see, Teach for America) cream and instill demands that ensure their “great ideas” will never scale.

What makes this almost unbearable is that the young men and women who chose to become teachers from the beginning will be paid less than those who thought, “This isn’t working. Maybe I’ll just go teach.”

The certificate would count as a master’s degree, in terms of pay scale.

I enjoyed my time in academia. Teaching bright students how to engage young people was always fulfilling. But this example shows the need for colleges and universities to become much more mindful of the off-campus world. It shows the need to drop assumptions. It shows the need to drop any sense of entitlement.

And it shows the need for action, not words.


About Paul T. Henley, Ph. D.

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