This is a guest post by Karen A. Schroeder, President of Advocates for Academic Freedom.
To be successful, teachers must be dedicated professionals who have the right to decide what age group to teach or when to earn an advanced degree. These professional decisions are being relinquished through new federal guidelines claiming to strengthen teacher-preparation programs.
Generations of teachers have been struggling to protect their profession from those who want to make teaching a trade. Now teachers must battle federal policies adopted by state legislators. The Obama administration will use tax dollars to pressure states to surrender their right to define teacher-preparation programs. The study indicates states will be creating their own set of standards, but like Common Core, those standards better meet federal guidelines.
If states adopt Obama’s plans for teacher education reform, states’ rights will be sold for a few federal dollars. Hopefully, teachers and the public will reject this federal overreach before the policies are ingrained in the system. When the states sold their autonomy over education by allowing Common Core Standards to be imposed upon the classroom, teachers and citizens began having difficulty trying to remove them.
Race to the Top dollars were used by the Center for American Progress (CAP) to shape Obama’s new teacher-preparation policies. One major motivator is that “most preparation programs pay no attention to the needs of schools or school systems when it comes to the production of graduates in specific grade level and subject areas.” The CAP document explains that there is a massive oversupply of newly prepared elementary teachers. They recommend linking teacher-preparation programs to the needs of the state to “force better alignment between supply and demand.”
This radical redesign of the purpose of teacher-education programs should concern parents, teachers, and state leadership. Forcing prospective teachers into their “second choice” will result in under-performance in the classroom, an injustice to students and teachers.
When teachers begin their college-preparation programs, they expect fewer jobs than graduates. This fact motivates teachers to be competitive, to be creative, to become the best applicant available for the job. The profession benefits because the most talented people are hired. Forcing teachers to fill a state need will require guaranteed employment. Both processes will undermine the benefits that come when people are allowed to define their own dreams and to fulfill those dreams.
Concerned that few new teachers are interested in being certified to teach upper grades, the federal government would be better served to ask prospective teachers the reasons. A myriad of answers could be expected to include: teacher-preparation programs do not prepare teachers for the impact that social, political, and economic issues have on the classroom; an emphasis on developing greater expertise in the subject they teach would be appreciated by many middle and high school teachers; and the use of data to identify failed teachers and failed college programs often holds teachers accountable for failed federal policies.
The issue of certification may be irrelevant if federal policies are adopted by states. New federal teacher- preparation plans include limiting a teacher’s ability to earn an MA degree in the field. The study notes that some states require teachers to “obtain a master’s degree within two or three years of initial licensure to get full certification at the higher level.” Center for American Progress claimed there is evidence of a weak relationship between having a master’s degree and being an effective teacher. The study describes several state solutions to this dilemma. New York piloted a policy that prohibits “ineffective” teachers from obtaining professional certification and continuing to teach.
The definition of an “ineffective” teacher varies greatly and often ignores the impact that failed federal policies have on the classroom, the role that failed federally aligned curriculums play in discouraging academic progress, and the role that excessive testing plays in limiting time spent on instruction. Many issues that impact student academic success must be acknowledged. Most teachers want accountability, but they want it to be fair.
Major improvements to college programs and teacher licensure programs are needed, but teachers must be involved in the process. When states surrender their authority and accept federal guidelines as their own, teachers typically become less relevant to the process. There is time for teachers and the public to get involved because these regulations will not be ready for implementation until 2016.
Karen Schroeder is President of Advocates for Academic Freedom, a member of the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, has a Master’s Degree in Special Education, and is an educational consultant. Karen can be reached at kpfschroeder@centurylink.
net or by calling 715-234-5072.