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Alternative Certification Warrants Study

One of the legitimate complaints about becoming certified to teach in public schools is the long list of questionable requirements.  That's why it's worthwhile considering the SUNY Charter Institute's proposal that would make it easier for qualified professionals to teach in its 167 charter schools ("New rules for who can teach are a big win for New York kids," New York Post, Jul. 10).

I don't necessarily see the changes as lowering standards, except for one that I'll address below.  Instead, I see them as eliminating courses that have little to do with the reality of the classroom. I think people with extensive experience have much to offer students in their respective fields of specialization. The dire need for teachers in physical science, math, and special education can be satisfied if we allow such professionals to dispense with highly questionable courses still required for licensure.

The changes would not be a free pass. Candidates would still need 30 hours of instruction, 100 hours working in the classroom under the supervision of an experienced licensed teacher, and attendance at state workshops on bullying, violence prevention and child abuse.

The single most valuable part of traditional teacher preparation has always been student teaching.  It's there that candidates soon find out if they have what it takes to be effective in the classroom.  All the courses in the world are useless compared to this baptism by fire. That's why I question if 100 hours are enough.  A typical student teacher needs to spend two full semesters in the classroom. Even then, the transition to full-time teaching is daunting.

I vividly remember my first semester in the classroom as a certified teacher.  I thought the day would never end, with five classes of students endlessly streaming into my room.  Student teaching seemed like a lark compared to teaching a full load.

Vested interests will oppose any changes because they see them as a threat to the empires they've built.  But the needs of the nation's students must come first.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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