With shortages looming as veteran teachers retire, it’s time to take a closer look at present licensing (“A Model for Licensing Reform,” The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 4). Although most states still require possession of a bachelor’s degree plus a year of student teaching for certification, alternative pathways exist. Whether they undermine classroom effectiveness largely depends on how the programs are structured.
Colleges of education and teachers’ unions maintain that only traditional programs can produce quality teachers. There is much truth to their argument because mere knowledge of subject matter is not enough. But a study by Paul Peterson and Daniel Nadler of states with quality alternative pathways to teaching found test-score gains on NAEP in 4th and 8th-grade math and reading over students in other states between 2003 and 2007.
The key word here is “quality.” For example, Texas is the only state that allows for-profit companies not affiliated with higher education institutions to offer teaching certificates. Such programs can take as little as three months to complete and cost about $4,000. I seriously doubt that these programs can prepare its students for the realities of the classroom. Yet they exist.
I’m open to alternative licensing programs as long as they produce evidence that they don’t shortchange their graduates. One promising approach is to have a panel of well-trained judges observe a candidate teach a class. Auditions have long been used with great success in the performing arts. I fail to see why they can’t be used in identifying qualified teachers. So far, however, the innovation has not caught on. I realize that it takes time to develop the wherewithal to be effective in the classroom. But some college graduates are “naturals” who should not be forced to sit through classes of pedagogy.
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