July 26, 2004

National Certification? I Think Not!

I just thought I'd take a look at the "right-wig rag" that Teresa Heinz Kerry attacked. I found this article on national teacher certification, and thought I'd examine it for right-wing bias or attacks on the Heinz and Kerry families. I didn't find any. But I did find some interesting stuff.

Frankly, the article is something of a puff-piece for the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, which has developed and administers the program. Now on the one hand, I like this. Getting the government out of certification has the potential to improve matters. But I do not know that this is the right method -- especially since the hwole thing was developed though the use of a lot of federal grant money.

First, the process requires that a teacher already be experienced and working in the classroom. That means that they are already certified by the state (or more than one state, as I am). When you consider, for example, that my Texas certificate will never run out (I was grandfathered under the lifetime certification law before it was replaced -- I'm going to let the Illinois certificate lapse since I don't plan on returning), there really isn't an incentive for me to seek additional certification. And since I will STILL have to meet the requirements of any other state I might choose to move to, there seems to be no particular incentive there, either. The whole thing is redundant.

Second, there is the time involved. It takes THREE YEARS to complete the process. Good God! That tells you right there that the requirements are cumbersome, time-consuming, and more effort than most reasonable people are willing to deal with. I teach school during the day and my night class, plus do my day -to-day stuff around the house and try to maintain a good and loving marriage to a wife with health problems. Where, exactly, am I supposed to find the time to do this? It does not exist for most of us. And then you get to start all over again, since the certification is good for only 10 years.

Third is the cost, $2300. Even if you consider that grant money is out there, it will likely cost the average teacher over $1000 to get this certification. Given the level of teacher salaries in many states, that is impractical. And the return on the investment is minimal, as most districts do not offer much of a salary increase (if any) for those who do get the national certification.

Fourth, I've looked at the standards for my own field. Oh, and that link is to the summary, not the 84-page PDF document of the standards for the certificate. I love the little things like this

II. Valuing Diversity

Accomplished teachers understand that each student brings diverse perspectives to any experience. These teachers encourage all students to know and value themselves and others.

Sounds like more PC liberal gobbledygook to me, which I confirmed by reading the full explanation in the manual, written in typical Educational Bureaucratese.

No, I won't be seeking this certification -- even though I already do 90% of what the standards say I should. I'm more interested in teaching my students well than in getting another piece of paper to hang on my wall. And I will keep hoping for a better, more practical alternative to come down the road, one which will meet the needs of both students and teachers, in both the public and preivate sectors of education.

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