Thursday, May 4, 2017

Got a Bachelor's Degree? There May Be a Public School Teaching Job Waiting For You.

Posted By on Thu, May 4, 2017 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge new_credential.jpg
Sitting at your college graduation trying to decide what to do next? Why not teach in a public school? You don't need any education classes. You don't need to demonstrate subject matter proficiency. Just take off that cap and gown and stow it in the back of your car, drive to the nearest school district and put in an application for a job to teach in your major field. They're desperate for teachers, you know, so you've got a great shot at walking out with an offer. Soon, you'll have yourself a Subject Matter Expert Standard Teaching Certificate and a classroom of your own.

I mean, really, how tough can it be to teach? You were a K-12 student. You spent 13 years watching teachers take roll, say a few words to the class, give an assignment and put the kids to work. You know how it's done, right? Piece of cake. You can do it too!

Dear Reader: Just to be sure you're clear on the concept, that second paragraph is pure satire. I spent 30-plus years in the classroom, and it stayed challenging all the way through my last day. Teaching ain't easy. But the first paragraph is for real. When the recent bill making it easier to get a teaching certificate in Arizona was signed into law by Governor Ducey, it meant that anyone with a baccalaureate degree in a subject taught in a public school can get a Subject Matter Expert Standard Teaching Certificate and start teaching right away. According to the law, there are two more ways you can get one of those certificates, potentially without even being a high school graduate. More on that later.

I've read what's been written about the new teacher certification law in other publications, and I'm almost certain the reporters whose work I've read misunderstood the legislation. The law has three requirements for obtaining a Subject Matter Expert Standard Teaching Certificate, and the articles appear to believe someone needs to fulfill two or more of the requirements to qualify, setting the bar higher than it actually is. I've gone through the Conference Engrossed Version of SB 1042 a number of times and read over the Senate Fact Sheet, and it's clear to me that an applicant only needs to fulfill one of the three to qualify.


Before the list of requirements, the law says:
A person is eligible for a specialized subject matter expert standard teaching certificate pursuant to this subdivision if the person obtains a valid fingerprint clearance card  . . . and meets any of the following requirements:
See that word "any" near the end of the passage? In the previous version of the law, the word was "all." "Any" means you only need to meet one of the three requirements to qualify.

I have to get a little English Teacher-ish when explaining the part of the Senate Fact Sheet relevant to this part of the bill, but I'm an old English teacher, so indulge me. The passage begins,
"[The law] Establishes the following criteria for an individual to obtain a Subject Matter Expert Standard Teaching Certificate:"
See the colon at the end of that passage? That signals that a list will follow. And it does — the three requirements separated by semicolons. After the semicolon separating the second and third item is the word "or." That means all you need is one of the three items; otherwise the word would be "and." Grammatically, it's more-or-less the same as a list separated by commas, like, "You have to eat an apple, an orange or a banana." The "or" means any one of the items will do.

So, here are the three requirements for getting one of the new teaching certificates. Any one of them will do.

(1) You can get the teaching certificate with a baccalaureate, master's or doctoral degree in a subject taught in public schools.

(2) You can get the teaching certificate with five years of work experience in a field taught in public schools. There's no degree requirement for this one, so theoretically, you wouldn't need a baccalaureate degree, or even a high school diploma if you put in the time in the right field.

(3) You can get the teaching certificate if you've taught at least three years in an accredited postsecondary institution. That sounds like you would need a college degree, except that accredited postsecondary institutions include vocational or trade schools where a degree may not be required.

(Note: An amendment was proposed saying a baccalaureate degree is a requirement for the certificate, but I didn't see that language in the bill.)

And remember, you're never required to take a single education course, ever. Or demonstrate subject matter proficiency, unless your grasp of subject matter is so shoddy, after two years in the classroom, the State Board of Education decides to suspend your certificate. 

Welcome to the new, ridiculously low bar Arizona set for teaching in its public schools.

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