States Should Consider Alternative Certification More Often

Published July 1, 2008

A study released June 26 by the National Council on Teacher Quality shows elementary school teachers are not well prepared by education schools to teach math.

The study of 77 elementary education programs nationwide — about 5 percent of those that offer undergraduate elementary school certification — was released a few months after a federal panel reported that U.S. elementary school students have difficulty understanding fractions, which then blocks their understanding of more complicated material like algebra when they reach middle and high school.

Though most new teachers know their multiplication tables, “they don’t come to us knowing why multiplication works the way it does,” University of Georgia math and science professor Denise Mewborn told USA Today for a June 26 story.

This is yet more evidence that states need to loosen up on who is allowed to teach what in the classroom. There is a strong case to be made for alternative certification programs for career-changers who’ve had real-life experience in the business world and didn’t go to education school, said Trevor Martin, vice president of government affairs at The Heartland Institute.

“Teacher certification based on demonstrated real-world knowledge should be standard, not alternative,” said Martin. “By opening up the field to accomplished professionals from business, science, and engineering, teaching becomes a viable option for many of our country’s brightest minds, and competition is injected into our classrooms to determine who exactly is best fit to teach.”

Earlier this year, legislators in both Missouri and Utah expanded the presence of an existing program, the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence’s Passport to Teaching, to address teacher shortages and give mid-career professionals more opportunities to pass on their knowledge to a new generation.

“With the looming teacher shortage facing Utah, it was imperative that alternative routes to teacher certification be made available to qualified professionals seeking to bring their talents into the classroom,” said Utah Rep. Greg Hughes (R-Draper), chairman of the House Education Committee. “Our mutual goal is to provide the children of Utah with great teachers.”

Karla Dial ([email protected]) is managing editor of School Reform News.