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

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