Pa. Union Claims “Dumbing Down” in Certification Lawsuit

Published September 1, 1999

Claiming that relaxing certification standards amounted to a “dumbing down of teaching,” the Pennsylvania State Education Association filed suit in July to block a fast-track teacher certification plan implemented by the state Department of Education.

The plan would allow professionals from science, medicine, or engineering to become teachers after a two-week orientation course if they held a graduate degree in the subject area to be taught, a bachelor’s degree in the subject area with at least a 3.0 GPA, or ten years of “distinguished service” in the profession.

One of the aims of alternative certification programs is to recruit teachers with degrees in liberal arts rather than education, and also to fill vacancies in difficult-to-fill fields such as mathematics and science. Based on the research findings of Carnegie-Mellon economics professor Robert P. Strauss, teaching candidates from all of these non-education fields are unlikely to “dumb down” teaching. Strauss found that while future teachers’ SAT scores were well below average, the SATs of future science, math, engineering, and liberal arts majors were well above average.