Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The New Teacher Certification Rules: Is Everyone Else Wrong, or Am I?

Posted By on Tue, May 16, 2017 at 3:37 PM

I've read SB1042 over and over again, likewise the accompanying Fact Sheet, and I keep coming to the same conclusion. Every media report I've read about the teacher certification law is wrong except mine. That sounds like the ravings of an egomaniac, I know, but until someone shows me I'm wrong, I'm sticking to my reading of the new law.

Here's what the new certification rules say as I read them. If you have a baccalaureate degree and nothing more, you can teach at a public middle or high school in a subject relevant to your content area. Even if you don't have a baccalaureate degree, you can teach if you've previously taught three years in an accredited postsecondary institution or if you've worked in a relevant field for five years. If you meet any of the three criteria—any of them—you qualify for a Subject Matter Expert Standard Teaching Certificate and can jump right into the classroom. You'll never be required to take an education course, and you'll never have to take a professional knowledge proficiency exam, ever. The only other thing you'll need is a fingerprint clearance card.

That's it. That's all you need to start teaching. A bachelor's degree in a field taught in 6th through 12th grade. Or three years teaching in an accredited post-high school setting. Or five years working in a relevant field. Any of the three will do. The earlier version of the law, which applied only to teachers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, said you had to have both a bachelor's and three years of post-high school teaching experience to qualify for a specialized teaching certificate. The new version applies to all 6th through 12th grade subjects, and it says either of those will do, then it adds five years of work experience as a third option.

All other media reports I've read say you need a bachelor's degree plus teaching or work experience to qualify. Uh uh. It's not both/and. It's either/or. To me, the law is clear as day, and it sets the bar for teaching far lower than other media reports have stated. If I've got it wrong, I'm fine with that. But until someone can show me the error of my ways, I'm going to continue to believe I've read the bill more carefully, and more accurately, than other people who've written about it.

At the bottom of this post is the relevant portion of the bill so you can read it yourself. But first, a few more observations about the wording and meaning of the law.

The law says you need a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree to teach. Unless someone skips over the bachelor's and goes straight to the higher degrees, mentioning the other two degrees is unnecessary. A bachelor's is all you need.

Since the law says all you need to teach is a bachelor's degree in a field taught in middle or high school, there's no need to add the parts about postsecondary teaching experience or work experience unless the purpose of those passages is to include people who don't meet the degree requirement. Otherwise, the other two qualifications are redundant. If you can teach with nothing but a bachelor's without postsecondary teaching or relevant work experience, why add those two categories? The only reasonable explanation is that a degree isn't necessary if you meet either of the other two qualifications. Since it's possible to teach at some postsecondary institutions or work in related fields without a bachelor's if an employer sees fit to hire you, that gives public middle and high schools the right to hire teachers without a degree from a four year college. Actually, the law can be taken further. If you meet either of the other two qualifications, you can teach even if you've never taken a college course in your life. Hell, you don't even need to be a high school graduate. Just read the law.

Here's the relevant passage of SB1042. If you read the bill online, you'll see it's marked up with some passages from the earlier version crossed out and new passages in all caps, but I'm giving you a clean version of the new rules.

A person is eligible for a Subject Matter Expert Standard teaching certificate pursuant to this subdivision if the person obtains a valid fingerprint clearance card that is issued pursuant to Title 41, Chapter 12, Article 3.1 and meets any of the following requirements:
   (i) Has taught courses relevant to a content area or subject matter for the last two consecutive years and for a total of at least three years at one or more regionally or nationally accredited public or private postsecondary institutions. A person shall demonstrate compliance with this requirement by providing the state board with written proof of employment for specific durations from one or more qualifying postsecondary institutions.
     (ii) Has either a baccalaureate degree, a master's degree or a doctoral degree in a specific subject area that is directly relevant to a content area or subject matter in public schools.
     (iii) Demonstrates expertise through relevant work experience of at least five years in a field that is relevant to a content area or subject matter taught in public schools. A person shall demonstrate compliance with this requirement by providing the state board with written proof of employment.

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