Paige Calls for Overhaul of Teacher Certification

Published August 1, 2002

Armed with a new report showing states generally set low academic standards for entry into the teaching profession, U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige on June 11 urged states to take steps to radically transform their teacher certification systems by raising academic standards for prospective teachers and lowering other unwarranted licensing hurdles that deter many highly qualified candidates from pursuing teaching careers.

“Too many education programs require too much focus on theory and pedagogy, and too little focus on fields of concentration—like math, history or science,” said Paige. “Too many barriers are built into the system that keep talented people out of the classroom and force districts to fill vacancies with teachers on waivers.”

According to the new report, “Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge,” more than 90 percent of teaching applicants pass their licensing tests—but the passing scores on these tests are not set at very challenging levels. On one teacher licensure test used by 29 states, more than half set their respective passing scores below the 25th percentile. On math and writing tests, only one state set its passing score above the national average.

Paige said there is no evidence that lengthy teacher preparation programs—which discourage many non-traditional applicants from considering teaching—produce better teachers than streamlined programs that get talented teachers into the classroom quickly. Paige cited the success of alternative certification routes such as Troops to Teachers, Transition to Teaching, and Teach for America.

For more information …

The U. S. Department of Education’s June 11 report, “Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge,” is available at the department’s Web site at