Friday, September 28, 2007

The Fox Guarding the Hen House

Yesterday in Nevada, I again was subjected to the harsh conflict of interest that exists in Teacher Certification. Many states, like Nevada, have professional standards boards to approve changes to teacher certification that are made up of - SURPRISE - Ed School Deans and professors!! Woohoo. Now, normally they try to take the high ground and not appear blatant about protecting their monopoly – but yesterday was an extreme exception.

The chairman of this task force, Dr. Luft, Associate Dean of Education, University of Nevada Reno, stated that if he voted for approving ABCTE he would be “hung from the elms in the quad” at his school. Later in the discussion he said that they couldn’t vote for this as it would hurt the ed schools financially. Now if your conflict of interest is that deep, don’t you think maybe you should recuse yourself from the proceedings – not preside over them.

If anybody wonders why alternative certification programs end up looking like regular certification programs you only have to look at the make up of state agency set up to approve the programs. I don’t want to be too subtle here so let me explain it in layman terms:


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Exponential vs Glacial

If you have not watched this yet -
you need to.

The rest of the world advances exponentially while American education advances at a glacial pace. And the rate of change is accelerating. It really does spell disaster for this country if we don’t do something to keep up.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Alternative Certification Isn't

Obviously we are thrilled with the recent study by Fordham and NCTQ revealing that Alternative Certification in the US really isn't. I remember back a few years when I briefly thought about going to law school and looked into a couple of night schools. I found out that they basically consisted of the day time program crammed into the night - it wasn't spread out or really designed for busy professionals to complete their course work. It was designed to work well for the university.

So to with Alternative Certification programs - and it is not surprising since most states put union members and ed school professors on their certification approval committees. Can anyone really be surprised that the programs they approve all include course work? The sad thing is that most of the course work is done during the first year of teaching. So this new teacher has to learn the craft, create great lesson plans, grade their papers, build their stamina (let's not kid ourselves - this is key) and then go to classes at night?? Gee - I wonder why they don't stay around long.

Also - it gets really annoying out there when everyone thinks that Teach for America, The New Teacher Project and Troops to Teachers are alternative certification programs- they are not. They are recruitment strategies (that work by the way!!). They recruit prospective teachers and help them get through current certification methods accepted in the state.

One can only hope that people read this and understand that to truly attract more people into teaching, we need alternative certification routes designed to attract professionals who want to work with America's students.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Subject Matter Matters

I have been in 4 different states meeting with 4 different state education chiefs and all of them expressed the same concern - there is a serious lack of subject matter knowledge in their math teachers. Therefore it was with great pleasure that I read the Title II draft and saw the emphasis on STEM professional development for teachers. It is with great sadness that I read that all the money had to go to institutions of higher ed (hopefully this will change).

In my state meetings, there is deep concern about this issue. All teachers must know the craft of teaching, but if the students know more than the algebra teacher, problems will continue in our high schools. We have all got to work together to fix this - and it will not happen overnight based upon the SATs of our current group of teachers.

The ABCTE founders created this program to address this dearth of subject matter expertise in our schools and we continue that charge today. America's schools are in a downward spiral where they produce students with weak math and science skills who are now becoming our next math and science teachers contributing to the death spiral.

We have go to stop the madness and get teachers into our schools who have the math and science knowledge, have the passion for the subjects AND know how to teach.

I can tell you that we are working harder than ever to meet with those states that working hard to reverse this trend.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gen X and Gen Y: any teachers there?

Education loves to ignore societal trends – going through time as if nothing could alter the current operation. Finding talent is one such blind spot. In the past, “Education” always found the talent they needed so they ignored the incredible societal shift going on around them. The current teacher preparation, recruitment and certification system is a great system for finding and keeping baby boomers. But that no longer represents the current reality.

So – will that system work for Gen X and Gen Y workers of today and who cares? Because boomers are retiring, Kelly Services reports that in just 4 years, Gen X and Y will make up 70% of the workforce – so you can’t just ignore them. And the gap between labor supply and demand will continue to widen over the next 20 years.

We have an antiquated system competing for talent with private sector recruiters who understand the Gen X and Gen Y characteristics and are heavily marketing to attract top employees. If nothing changes, teaching will continue to get “left behind”.

And the last Pew study doesn’t bode well for teacher education programs since 81% of 18-25 year olds say that being rich and famous is the most important goal of their generation. Sorry NEA – a $10,000, or even a $20,000 raise in starting salaries is not going to attract this generation in ed school programs.

To properly staff our schools we have to figure out how to attract Gen X and Gen Y once they figure out that getting rich is not where it’s at. To do that we have to get career changes by doing the following:

  • Use the web to get their interest - I dare you to figure out the process to become a teacher through the web in almost any state or district – you have to help them become teachers
  • Use the web to advertise – google ads are huge for us right now and one of the main reasons we now have 4,500 candidates
  • Get High tech – our teacher preparation and certification must be high tech in order to attract them into the program – think online and podcasts
  • Get Customized and Flexible– these generations did NOT grow up in a one-size-fits-all society and won’t accept that in their teaching program
  • Understand they are not going to stay in teaching– career/job loyalty is gone – understand it and use that to your advantage to attract talent from other careers
  • Immediate payoffs – they want pay plans and career ladders so these must be in place to attract the right talent
  • Summers off – Gen X and Y work to live and Teaching needs to highlight the opportunity to do just that – leverage this competitive edge over other careers

Gen X and Gen Y have too many choices. If teaching doesn’t understand them, they will go do something else. Teacher recruitment, preparation and certification programs that are designed to attract these groups will be the most successful as the baby boomers head towards retirement.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Title II - No Competition = No Innovation

Dear Chairman Miller, Rep. McKeon, Chairman Kildee, and Rep. Castle:

On behalf of the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), I am writing to provide comments on the Title II Discussion Draft of your No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Reauthorization legislation.

ABCTE has two programs that work to accomplish the goals of improving teacher quality, teacher retention, and that address the teacher shortage, specifically in math and science. The first is an initial teacher credential that prepares and certifies career changers for the classroom. The American Board’s Passport to TeachingSM program has certified more than 625 teachers and is prepared to deliver significantly more, as more than 4,500 candidates have enrolled in the program. This program attracts candidates with much-needed diversity and life experience into teaching. ABCTE candidates’ average age is 38, 32 percent are male, and 18 percent are minorities.

You can view the rest on our website at:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tier Twos Try Harder

We dropped our oldest daughter at Radford University for her first year and it really is quite impressive how things have changed. Part of this is due to the fact that someone at Radford mistakenly received training in customer service. Gone are the – “look left and look right because only one of you will be here”. It has been replaced by bragging about freshman retention rates, graduate in four years rates and all the things other education pundits are pushing for in the US News rankings.

I have to believe it is because the so called “second tier” schools are trying harder.

Orientation was amazing – they really are trying to ensure that the students succeed and learn. Being somewhat cynical, I thought orientation would be a waste but it was highly informative for parents and students. The students then went with an advisor and sscheduled their freshman classes. I never even met my advisor. The education majors even provide free tutoring to students and the athletic majors provide free aerobics and step classes. And I just received my “test of the emergency text messaging system” – so apparently they already have their system in place for notifying parents and students of any emergency - which really makes me feel kind of good right now.

The only thing I object to is that they take the student schedules and pack all of their books in one neat bundle for them to pick up and it takes about 4 minutes. Gone is the fun of wandering around the book store trying to match your schedule to the book - - how can our students truly be prepared for the real world if their college experience is that well organized.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Teachers Lawyers Doctors

The next few blogs will be about solutions to teacher shortages. Many of the opponents to alternative teacher certification like to play the doctor/lawyer/nurse card when defending the current system of preparing and certifying teachers. They say that you would never allow lawyers or doctors to come into the profession through an alternative certification.

To compare teachers to lawyers – well I really don’t think we want a profession driven by economics where only the very wealthy can afford the very best teachers who went to the very best education schools and the poor students get the teachers who went to lesser schools and have enormous caseloads and lousy working conditions. Oh…..wait……we do have that. But to be perfectly honest, if there was a severe lawyer shortage and they found people who could pass the bar exam without going to law school, I would have no issue hiring that lawyer since he had the knowledge he needed to take my case. But there are way too many lawyers in the world. If you have a lot of people applying for something, you can be much more restrictive in the certification process- - certainly not the case for teaching. In fact, since ed schools have significantly less applicants, their standards are bound to go down.

The medical profession is also experiencing shortages of doctors and nurses. The work they do cannot be compared to teaching as one mistake in their day could mean life or death and the amount of knowledge to complete their work is significantly greater than what is required to teach. In order to respond to shortages they have also gone overseas in search of talent like many school districts. But they have also responded by redesigning the medical care patients receive. Now instead of spending time with your doctor, most of your time is spent with paraprofessionals and nurse practitioners are replacing doctors and rural areas have visiting specialists. There are some ways to borrow from this for teaching – but I will save that for a later blog.

Teaching is different. We have ample proof that alternatively certified teachers are just as effective as teachers coming through standard routes (here and here). With that proof and with the current teacher shortage, decision makers must use the best available resources to the get the teachers they need. Using lame analogies does not put a high quality teacher in every classroom

Thursday, September 6, 2007

More Students & Less Teachers

NCES statistics have been updated and the big story that everyone is covering is the dramatic increase in students - over 1 million new students reporting to schools. And on the teaching front there is barely a sound. Based on an average class size of 20, we would need 50,000 new teachers to handle this new work load and that is only to cover the new students - it doesn't even address the issue of teacher retirements and teachers changing careers.
So how many new teachers came out with brand new bachelor degrees in education? NCES reports that we had 827 fewer new teachers in 2006 than we did in 2005. The number continues to drop. At a time when we need a significant increase in teachers, our main supply continues to decrease. The shortage continues to move toward crisis level in the most critical element in education and the band aids of long term subs, teaching out of certification area and recruiting from overseas continue to keep things on track.
And the only people that suffer are the students.