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Badge of Shame


Jeffrey Huyck is the kind of teacher parents wish their kids could have. He holds a doctorate in classics from Harvard. He has taught at the secondary and post-secondary levels for 22 years. His Latin students at Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz, California earn national honors and go on to elite universities. But Huyck is missing one thing: the 'highly qualified' stamp that, under the No Child Left Behind Act, would allow him to continue teaching at the charter school. Confronted with the choice of enrolling in a multi-year teaching-certification program that would cost at least $15,000 or leaving Pacific Collegiate, Huyck accepted a position at a private school. Influencing his decision was the experience of his wife, Sarah Whittier, who also works at Pacific Collegiate and holds a doctorate in English literature. At age 53, she drove 90 minutes to attend certification classes that she found humiliating. "To me, it's a badge of shame," she says of the highly qualified teacher requirement. "It's an embarrassment. It's infantilizing."


I understand the absurdity of this...I too have a Master's degree , 20+ years of experience and am an adjunct faculty professor at a couple universities teaching graduate students. If I want to teach in the public school system I have to go back to school to take courses for certification...I dont get it, I teach more advanced classes han the ones I would be taking. Not to mention that I have to pay for the classes. There must be a better way!!!!

What a minute! Having a teaching degree is not worth the time? Knowing content is all that necessary to teach? Not having to worry about best practices and learning styles? Wow! I've been working too hard!

No, knowing content is not all that is necessary. However, isn't experience worth something? A system which treats someone with years of experience in k-12 teaching in the same way as it treats a novice is insulting. Why can't there be a different approach for someone in Huyck's position? Cannot gaps in his training be identified and targeted in a program that respects and validates his own experiences? Are children well served by a system which drives teachers like Huyck out of the classroom in favor of novices?

Anyone with years of teaching experience and a doctorate in their content area is perfectly capable and highly likely to continue in professional development by keeping up to date on best practices, learning theory, and more simply by their intrinsic motivation toward lifelong learning. They shouldn't have to pay thousands of dollars for a teaching degree or certification, which, indeed, is not worth the time or money invested in it. I recieved my B.A. in my content area, which was a rigorous and worthwhile program. Later, I got my M.A. in Education and felt it was a joke. The courses seemed like community ed classes covering information that I could have learned on my own rather than spending $25,000 for a piece of paper that now is a reminder of the problems with the system.

Not too sure how he cannot continue teaching under the HQ parameters. As a Latin teacher who taught English in high schools for a number of years, I can only attribute that SNAFU to an inadequate administration.

BTW, I agree with the dumbing-down effect of education degrees, having done a BA and MA in Classics and Latin and then having done a second MA in education. Any monkey with the texts and some time could learn more than I was allowed to in that program.

Hey, de-evolution at work!

I sympathize with Mr. Huyck. If he were pursuing any other profession (outside of K-12 public education), he would be acknowledged and compensated for his education and experience. The bureaucracy surrounding teacher licensure granting institutions creates a blockade against highly qualified potential teacher candidates and provides colleges of education with a monopoly on the teacher preparation market. I know that some states have offered up alternative routes to certification. In my state, Georgia, there is even a "test-out" route to certification which allows teachers employed with non-renewable certificates to take (and pass) a series of tests to evaluate their content and pedagogical knowledge. These individuals must then commit to a year long supervised practicum which they must pay for. It costs about $5,000. I wonder who benefits most from this? Potential K-12 teachers or the institutions that train and certify them?

After 20 years of teaching mental health students I find I am no longer one of the best, but no longer qualified. I am angry and depressed... Yes, we can take classes or Praxis tests, but at out own cost and time. In Pa. we can use points from Act 48 to help qualify, but big surprise very few of my "points" are in core content areas! I tend to take classes on mental health issues....This whole issue is insulting.

It is a shameful act to have 20+ positive years of experience ignored due to licensing issues. It is devastating to have 20+ years of experience (one masters in teaching and another masters in education administration, and previously held certification in another state) ALL ignored because my current teaching license arrived after the start of the school year. So,I was terminated. The politics of American education are not people-focused or child-friendly. How can we change this current trend?

I think Jodie hit it on the head. The most frustrating part of the licensing criteria is that it doesn't recognize that an advanced degree is not just an indication of content knowledge; it is also an indication of an advanced ability to think critically and learn independently. In fact, one could argue that this is the essential core of what a PhD is all about.

When I made the switch from college to HS teaching, I needed to learn a tremendous amount about pedagogy. To do this, I poured over articles and texts, observed other teachers, and talked with experienced educators. Having spent time teaching and doing research at the college level, self directed learning was a natural activity for me. Unfortunately, none of this counted as "learning". Instead I had to take courses where I spent many hours learning how to "think critically" and how to use the "research literature". For someone without a doctorate, such training would be useful, but having spent 6 years in a job where I did this on a daily basis (just not in the field of education), such courses were painful, and for me, did not contribute much to my learning.

Certification should ensure that teachers are qualified, but should recoginze that there are many routes to become qualified. We (try) to teach our students that it is the learning they do, not the course they take or the grade they get that is important. Our certification system should do the same.

Thank you Doug,for taking the words out of my mouth. I have a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, Measurement and Evaluation and am qualified to identify and evaluate best practices in teaching and educational programs. This summer, I passed the PET, Elementary Ed.(K-6), Middle Grades Math (6-12), Business Education, and ESE SAE's in Florida. I am considered eligible for certification in Florida and have experience in substitute teaching. I also have experience in teaching etiquette to over 700 students with class sizes ranging from 40 to over 130 students in grades six through twelve. With this experience and more, I am having trouble obtaining employment because I am not yet considered "highly qualified" because I do not have a certificate in hand. Isn't it ironic?

I'm getting really upset reading all the comments, not because I disagree but I think what's happening to all these experienced teachers are ridiculous! I'm not yet a licensed teacher but I am student teaching this last semester and it makes me mad to hear all this stuff that teachers that have been teaching for years have to go through! Isn't it all about the children anyway? About the kids learning or not? There are times when I don't understand the teacher system and I don't even know if I want to go into teaching but I go to school everyday and teach the kids and that's what it's all about in the end. Teaching the kids. Why can't there be some way for someone who's been given the "authority to deem who's highly qualified or not" to come in and observe the teachers that aren't "highly qualified" but have been teaching for ages and see if they are qualified so they don't have to spend time and money to get the "highly qualified" title? Couldn't you tell from observing someone if they were qualified for the job or not? I don't know, but there has to be a better way for teachers to stay in the system that are being effective. I don't think teachers that have been teaching for 20+ years should go through "training" again when they've already been through it.

I agree that there should be a way for teachers to keep on teaching when they are doing the job well. What about the "highly qualified" teacher who has a poor impact on the students, teaches to the minimum level acceptable, and only does enough work to keep their job? Why should this person be spared when others are tossed to the side even though they work hard WITH the students, take student interests and attitudes into account, and have a genuine compassion for the educational process?
NCLB sounds like a nice ideal, but the practicality of the situation is doing more harm than good.

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Recent Comments

  • Price: I agree that there should be a way for teachers read more
  • Carol: I'm getting really upset reading all the comments, not because read more
  • Lee: Thank you Doug,for taking the words out of my mouth. read more
  • Doug: I think Jodie hit it on the head. The most read more
  • Kathleen Mann: It is a shameful act to have 20+ positive years read more




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