Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stop the madness

How can a person teach if they have not had course work or student teaching? It is a question that I am asked many times when visiting states. In the past this was somewhat difficult to answer, but as the data comes in from multiple studies, it is clear that the answer to this question is: just as well as those who had course work and student teaching.

We now have four separate studies that provide pretty much the same conclusion that students of alternatively certified teachers perform as well as students from traditionally certified teachers.

The ridiculous compromise that many leaders use to create alternative teacher certification programs is to make people take course work at night. To these leaders I always try to stress that teaching in the first year is physically and mentally exhausting. You have to be “on” longer than in most professions and the last thing these new teachers need is to leave their school and go sit in a class. They still need to grade papers, tweak lesson plans, rest and spend time with the family.

It turns out we are right. From the most recent study on alternative certification (Note that AC is alternatively certified and TC is traditionally certified teachers):

Students of AC teachers who were taking coursework while teaching scored lower in math than students of their TC counterparts. This finding suggests that student performance in an AC teacher’s class may be negatively related to the teacher’s taking courses while teaching.

If the first rule of education reform is to do no harm – then we must eliminate course work requirements for new teachers that have no value and are actually reducing teacher effectiveness.

The studies are found here:
“What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness? Evidence from New York City”, Kane, Rockoff, Staiger, 2006,
“Identifying Effective Teachers on the Job”, Gordon, Kane and Staiger, Brookings Institute, 2006
“What Happens when States have Genuine Alternative Certification”, Peterson and Nadler, Education Next, Winter 2009,
“An Evaluation of Teachers Trained Through Different Routes to Certification”, IES/Mathematica, February 2009

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