Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Best Thing the State Could Do Is to Stop Screwing With Certification

Angry Face
In the eyes of the state, I'm not a qualified reading teacher.

I've been teaching 1st grade for 8 years. For the last two years during our walk-to-read time I've taken on the lowest group, those kids needing the most remediation. I've planned before school intervention programs, after school programs, been trained in Read Naturally, DIBELS, and Reading Mastery, and I've got the test results to show that *it has worked.* I love, love, love working with developing readers, and I wouldn't trade for anything the feeling of seeing a kid turn on that light and become a capable, competent reader.

But in the eyes of the state, I'm not a qualified reading teacher.

In May I wandered up to Mead High School and took the WEST-E, which tests your teaching knowledge in a variety of subject areas. Passing is 240; I got a 288. By that measure, then, I'm amply qualified to teach reading.

But still, in the eyes of the state, I'm not a qualified reading teacher.

I can add an endorsement by doing the National Boards, which holds absolutely zero interest for me, enrolling in a program through one of the local colleges, which I don't have the money to do, or pursuing a Pathway II endorsement through one of the local colleges. If I did that, I'd pick Wazzu-Spokane. It'll cost me $1,600.

This is bullshit.

Reading around, one of the things that they say that you should do to make yourself useful to your employer is to have a varied skill set--don't be able to do only one thing, or when that one things goes away you're not needed any more. I've written about this before thinking about school psychologists and music teachers, but it holds true universally.

It used to be that with the Golden Certificate you could teach any subject, any time. That went away because of the stereotype of the ineffective teacher who was qualified in the eyes of the state but in reality sucked at their job.

So we substituted that for the initial/continuing paradigm, and added endorsements into the mix. Now the thought was that forcing teachers into getting continuing credits and clock hours would keep them fresh, keep them vital, keep them "in the game" in a way that would benefit kids.

Turns out, clock hours and continuing credits were often a joke. I've sat in the summer "workshops" filled with very honest, very cynical teachers who were there just so they could get their certificate renewed. So we threw away that system and piled on Professional Certification instead. Now, we'll be performance based! Portfolios! Evidence! Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

By my math, how we "do" ProCert has changed at least 5 times since I was part of the first ProCert group to go through Eastern in 2004. Instead of actually paying attention to their students we have young teachers assembling binder after binder after binder to demonstrate their mastery of a profession that they shouldn't have mastered yet, usually putting out thousands of dollars that they don't have in the process.

The dream of a highly qualified and effective teacher in every classroom is a good one; it's where we should be. The certification process as we're doing it now, though, has become so divorced from that goal as to be totally irrelevent. Because "we" "can't" get rid of "bad teachers", the system has been constructed in such a way that good teachers can't get into positions that they would excel at, and at the same time people are faced with as steep an uphill climb as exists in any profession just to keep their jobs, and that's ridiculous.

What's the solution? Simple, to me: shitcan the whole set-up. Start taking power back from the Professional Educators Standards Board. Say a hearty "Hell no!" to the certification changes that were embodied in HB2261. Stop acting like National Certification is the be-all, end-all of teacher effectiveness, because the Board process was never intended to be for everyone.

There's more than compensation involved in job satisfaction. Want to make a teacher's job easier? Make it easier for them to actually be a teacher, without having to worry about 10 tons of crap falling from on high. The fixes to certification in Washington have broken the system even more--it's time to start over.

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Blogger banders said...

Oh, if only the state would stop screwing with so many aspects of education....

My impression is that a lot of these meddlesome requirements come from the desire to fire bad teachers and reward good ones.

I think you've hit on the best reward there is- being let alone to do your job as best you can.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Megan Mc said...

Another ill-effect is all of the wonderful teachers from out of state that are turned away at the door and told they have to spend thousands of dollars getting certified if they teach in Washington State's public schools. Instead they turn to private schools where they don't have to deal with any of that crap. The teacher colleges have a major toehold on the legislature in this state - more powerful than the teacher's union? I haven't been here long enough to figure it out.

Thanks for blogging.

12:50 AM  
Blogger MommaTria said...

Can you give me more information regarding "golden certificates" going away? Where could I find more information about that? I've been told that golden certificates still allow teachers to teach in any subject area...

2:29 PM  

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