Sunday, October 11, 2009

Michael Bishop: Many good teachers are uncertified, and bad teachers are certified

Emily Alpert at Voice of San Diego writes: Jay Mathews at the Washington Post says we need a way to fix the mess around teacher certification. But most importantly, he quotes my old roommate Michael Bishop, a Ph.D candidate at the University of Chicago who knows a heck of a lot about teacher training and also makes excellent pancakes.

Fixing the Teacher Certification Mess
Jay Matthews
Washington Post
Sept. 2009

I have no doubt our system for certifying teachers is broken. On Aug. 24, I wrote about a first-rate Prince George’s County teacher who was nearly fired because of official confusion over his certification credits. These are courses he must take to keep his job, but the people in charge had given him conflicting information about how many, and which, courses he needed. Since then, scores of educators have sent me their own horror stories---some of which I collected in another column on Sept. 7...

What do we do about this? Many readers have sent their ideas. But it’s not going to be easy. Injecting common sense into the process threatens the way our education schools teach and the way our school districts hire. Those powerful interest groups show little willingness to change. But the acidic frustrations expressed by people who contacted me are, thankfully, corroding the resistance to innovation.

What of broader systemic reform? Michael Bishop, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Chicago|, nicely summed up the research on this issue.

Studies “find that certified teachers do a little better, or at least no worse. Unfortunately this is very weak evidence that the certification process caused the teachers to become better, rather than merely identifying who is better. Furthermore, the typical study cannot make a fair comparison because uncertified teachers are more likely to be teaching disadvantaged students. What is clear is that there are many good teachers who are uncertified, and bad teachers who are certified.”...

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