Margaret Spellings on the Teacher Shortage
Margaret Spellings spoke about alternative teacher certification in Jefferson City yesterday:
She pointed to federal programs such as Teach for America to recruit more college students and alternative certifications for people with other careers who want become teachers.
"We’re going to have to figure out how to recruit mid-career professionals into our classrooms," Spellings said.
Both Teach for America and alternative certification are good ideas, but I think alternative certification has the potential to be more effective. Teach for America is popular, but graduates generally teach for just a year or two and then go on to something else. Whereas, if you help people switch careers say, from working as a scientist in a lab to teaching high school science they may stay in their new career for 15 or 20 years. This could be a particularly attractive option for older people who want to cut down on their work hours but don’t want to retire completely.
However, alternative teacher certification is much more controversial than Teach for America. I’m not sure why; neither program requires extensive education coursework. But many people seem to think that older people need more theoretical training than recent graduates. The NEA criticized Spellings’ alternative teacher certification idea, not her mention of Teach for America:
Chris Guinther, Missouri president for the National Education Association, said the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence checks whether people know a subject, not whether they can teach it.
"As we hold our students to higher standards, it seems incongruous that we’re willing to lower teacher standards," said Guinther.