Saturday, December 15, 2012

AFT leader advocates "bar exam" for teachers

Want to improve the quality of teachers in the classroom? The President of the American Federation of Teachers has an idea. Randi Weingarten advocates in a Wall Street Journal column making teachers pass the equivalent of a "bar exam". Naturally there are to be no "bar complaints" filed against individual teachers, mind you but hey, its great at making it tougher to become a teacher.  Did I mention she is a lawyer?  Read on.

To become a lawyer, Abraham Lincoln was required by Illinois law only to "obtain a certificate procured from the court of an Illinois county certifying to the applicant's good moral character." That 19th-century standard, along with Lincoln's self-taught legal training, was sufficient for our extraordinary 16th president. Over the years, however, the legal profession saw the need to include formal training and establish a high standard for entry into its ranks, as did the medical profession.

Every profession worth its salt goes through such periods of self-examination. That time has come for the teaching profession.

We must do away with the common rite of passage whereby new teachers are thrown into classrooms, expected to figure things out, and left to see if they (and their students) sink or swim. Such a haphazard approach to the complex and crucial enterprise of educating children is wholly inadequate. It's unfair to both students and teachers, who want and need to be well-prepared to teach from their first day on the job.

Success in today's economy requires ingenuity and the ability to apply knowledge. Yet America's testing fixation stifles creativity and critical thinking, something that the rich, rigorous Common Core State Standards (which most states have adopted) can change. Raising the bar for students raises it for their teachers as well. To help teachers meet this challenge, the American Federation of Teachers has developed a proposal for an unprecedented leap in elevating the quality of the teaching profession.

Instead of the current hodgepodge approach to teacher certification and licensing, we propose that all prospective teachers in the United States take a rigorous bar exam that gauges mastery of subject-matter knowledge and demonstrates competency in how to teach it. The process could be modeled after the bar exam for lawyers or the board certification of medical doctors.

Teacher preparation is a high national priority in the countries that consistently top international academic rankings. It is past time for the U.S. to follow a similar path. Practicing teachers in K-12 and higher education should own responsibility for setting and enforcing the teaching profession's standards.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards could lead in establishing common professional standards, aligning teacher-preparation with those standards, and assuring that candidates meet them. The way to do that is through a teachers' bar process.

I have worked as both a teacher and a lawyer. I was utterly petrified the first day I taught my own high-school students, whereas I was quite confident the first time I represented a client in a courtroom. My legal training included three years of formal study, clinical experience with established lawyers on real-world cases, and passing a grueling bar exam that the legal profession had deemed demonstrated the knowledge and ability to serve successfully as a new lawyer. (
KF note: There are not too many lawyers who weren't "petrified" the first time they represented a client in the courtroom. Newsflash to this union leader: Most people are petrified when they have their first professional experience.)

As an alternatively certified teacher, my preparation consisted of condensed coursework and valuable but limited student teaching—far less than I needed. Surveys of teachers show that many who go through traditional teacher-preparation programs feel they aren't adequately prepared to manage and teach students early in their career. Alternatively certified teachers feel even less prepared. Yet teachers assume an enormous responsibility from day one. And when they struggle, the response is too often the threat of termination, not an offer of assistance. (
KF: Oddly enough, teachers get more practical training than lawyers.  There is no one year of practicing law as there is student teaching before one becomes licensed.  Few, if any lawyers, are qualified to represent a client when they pass the bar exam.)

Setting a bar for entry into the teaching profession requires strengthening and aligning many components. Standards for admission to and completion of teacher-preparation programs should be appropriately high. Curricula should address the specific knowledge and skills that competent beginning teachers need. Preparation must include extensive experience in actual classrooms working with accomplished teachers. Mastery should be demonstrated not just through a written exam but also through demonstrations of a candidate's ability to teach. High standards for entry into the profession should apply to all prospective teachers, whether they pursue traditional or alternative certification.

The teaching profession is full of dedicated, talented teachers, but much of their expertise is developed only once they're on the job. Better preparing teachers for entry into the profession will dramatically reduce the loss of new teachers—nearly half of whom leave after fewer than five years—and the loss of knowledge that goes with it. As widespread teacher retirements sweep across the nation's schools (1.6 million in the next decade alone), our proposal will help create a constant supply of well-prepared educators ready from day one to help children achieve at high levels.

Sorry but if anything, I think we should go in the opposite direction. There is no damn reason Chief Justice Bill Waller or Judge James Graves can't teach a high school civics class. Why can't liberal economist teach a high school economics class. The teaching cartel, led by those such as Ms. Weingarten, has effectively closed off teaching from the true experts in society. All those college students that apply and don't get admitted to medical or dental school have degrees in science or biology. That means they usually have twice the number of science classes as do the science ed majors. They usually reapply to medical school. The best and brightest. Then there are military foreign language instructors. They can make someone fluent in Russian in less than a year but would need to pass a "bar exam" if Randi has her way. Right. If anything, I would reduce the one year track for alternate certification to a six to eight week boot camp of sorts. Want to improve the teaching profession? Don't use tricks such as the "bar exam" to keep the best and brightest of society out of the classroom.

The letters to the editor had a few things to say:

The proposal by Randi Weingarten to ratchet up the credentialing and licensing requirements of teachers by instituting a "bar exam for teachers" is a colossally bad idea. As has been demonstrated time and again, there is no evidence that teacher credentialing increases student achievement. What the evidence suggests is that teacher-certification requirements actually drive potentially good 
teachers, especially individuals with advanced subject-matter knowledge, out of the teaching market.

The best mechanism to improve teacher quality is a genuinely free market in education. Introducing market forces into American education requires comprehensive reforms that empower parents, focus teachers on subject-matter mastery and away from the pursuit of additional certifications, and that allow schools to integrate new technologies.
Tim Keller
Institute for Justice
Tempe, Ariz.

The president of the American Federation of Teachers tells us that there are too many unqualified teachers and that we should impose the equivalent of a "bar exam" for new K-12 teachers. So, the first thing we do is grandfather in the problems (oddly enough, this proposal doesn't apply to existing teachers). Creating hurdles to teaching reduces supply, and if demand is the same, it raises costs to the school district and thus tends to push up the pay of the existing teachers. Not surprising that a union leader is proposing to set up additional barriers to entry.
Prof. Ronald D. Rotunda
Chapman University
Orange, Calif.

Randi Weingarten overlooks the predominant difference between the teaching (union) and legal (nonunion) professions: individual responsibility. When lawyers don't meet employer or client expectations, their employers and clients are free to terminate their relationships. There are no grievance processes standing in the way. Nor do lawyers who excel at their jobs go on strike and refuse to work, march through our cities and towns demanding more money and more time off, or advocate for more protections for their underperforming counterparts.
Scott Emery
New York

Is this the same Randi Weingarten of the AFT who opposed using standardized test scores as part of a teacher-evaluation system in Chicago but now wants to implement a standardized test system for a teachers' "bar exam"? Have Ms. Weingarten and the AFT done a complete reversal? Are they now endorsing standardized testing or is this an attempt to raise the barriers to terminating failing teachers and exerting local control by the citizens and parents? ("But they passed the bar! They must be qualified.") Will it be the Teachers' Bar Association that will handle discipline, not the local school system?
Tom Van Kleef
Fort Worth, Texas

 One last question: if they pass a "bar exam", does that mean they should carry malpractice insurance? Does that mean we can file complaints against them and publish their names when found guilty of malpractice by "the bar"?


Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Lawyers do not guarantee results and, with the general exception of ambulance chasers (sorry, I mean civil litigators), generally get paid very well for their efforts regardless of the outcome for their client. Could we envision a world where teachers and lawyers are both paid very well (or not) if their success for each of their clients (defendants and students alike) is objectively measured? I like the idea but think it won't fly, will it?

I like higher entrance and performance standards for teachers, but think we should be prepared to pay *much* better for them in Mississippi. We're currently getting what we pay for -- and that's why we do so well in the national/international rankings...

Shadowfax said...

If adopted, where might this be successful? Anyone care to offer a suggestion? We can't staff the classrooms as it is. Don't we already have a program in place that allows non-certificated personnel in the classroom because they can't pass tests? Bar Exams? Holy Shit! What's next?...requiring that they demonstrate excellence in collective bargaining tactics?

Anonymous said...

Hysteria put aside, the idea is a fine one ... if passing this exam SUFFICES to qualify one for teaching, without the need for Mickey-Mouse credits from an education department. This proposal could have the opposite effect from the kneejerk assumptions of the post and comments.

Arguably the same should apply to lawyers: pass the bar, you're in.

Anonymous said...

Very simple just equire those in education to have a deree in subject they are teaching.
get rid of education departments in any university one course in how to write a lesson plan is all that is needed. We do not need English, history, math etc. for education majors.Hac=ving taught ed majors one soon finds most are not very bright.

Anonymous said...

I agree that education degrees are not as impressive as a history, math, or subject degree. Passion for inquiry is a starting point for any education.

Anonymous said...

The world is chock full of successful test takers who can't do the respective jobs. Any fool who thinks this solution will improve education is, well, a fool.

Anonymous said...

8:16 - world is also full of regular-path teachers who can't do THEIR jobs. So? Either way, fire the ones who don't measure up. But that is another can of worms.

Shadowfax said...

Maybe people who have spent a lifetime in the 'education gerbil wheel' should not be allowed to do the hiring. This brings to mind an assemblage of government workers responsible for hiring more government workers, none of whom has one day of private sector experience, with a goal of solving private sector problems.

We spend a lot of time moaning about firing the ineffective but very little in persuit of excellence in hiring.

Hiring the right people is not (or should not be) a crap-shoot. We've filled up our institutions with people who cannot teach concepts and subject matter. It would take a decade to fire them all. And while we did that, the same people, using the same selection methods, would simply hire more of them.

Shadoxfax said...

And I will add, ALL of our problems would go away if we simply passed charter schools.

Shadowfax said...

I don't know that much about Charter Schools, and did not enter that last post. "And I will Add" is not exactly my style. Kingfish needs to employ an IP address recognition device.

Anonymous said...

Shadow. If you are worried about the imposters go get yourself an OpenID Nom de plume and use it here religiously. That way everyone will be able to know which posts are yours and which are the imposters'. You can solve this problem for yourself.

ShadowPlume said...

Why should I have to go to that trouble when Kingfish could readily out the culprit with simple IP address? I suspect we all know who it is anyway.

Anonymous said...

Why should I have to go to that trouble when Kingfish could readily out the culprit with simple IP address?

The "simple IP address" to which you refer means nothing ShadowImposter. Many people reading and commenting here from work locations are behind routers using some form of network address translation.

Shadowfax said...

However; Kingfish has ready access to the IP addresses of repeat posters, regardless of the incidence of networks. And he can easily detect certain posters who are sabotaging his blog. If this saboteur will fiddle-fart around with little crap (and so far this is silly, little crap), he will eventually graduate to larger efforts. Bombers start with firecrackers.

ShadowDummkopf said...

It is obvious you don't know what you are talking about Shadowfax. YOUR problem can be resolved by yourself. Therefore there is no reason why KF should waste valuable time protecting your anonymous ass when you won't do anything on your won accord.

KaptKangaroo said...

I'm not doing it, never have and never will - don't have a reason. I have a feeling the paranoid Flounder might be doing it to his-self to garner attention.

Shadowfax said...

Did anyone accuse you 'Root'? Pangs of guilt much? Or just the itch of being outed? Not sure what Flounder means but I'm sure you are enjoying your mental self. Shouldn't you be spreading cat-litter around the fuel-island?

KaptKangaroo said...

Huh? Many know who I am. You too so quiet the hell down and take the advise of an earlier poster and go get an ID, you will be just as anonymous as your think you are now.

ophelia said...

Back to "bar exams" for teachers, lads. I agree that being a crackerjack test-taker doesn't indicate squat about potential talent in the classroom, but it's at least a way to separate the wheat from the chaff---to ascertain that the teacher possesses a sound base of core knowledge.

And, oh, how I do agree that stupid, time-wasting "ed courses" are a big fat boondoggle. Whoever suggested one course in simple syllabus-writing and lesson-planning has the right idea.

Another good point is the ol' elephant in the (class)room---PAY. Nobody in their right mind would agree to stand up in front of thirty or so kids five days a week, and put up with all the bureaucratic, administrative hogwash, for the peanut salary Mississippi offers.

I can see why, in this miasmic educational system here, some parents choose to home-school, although you couldn't have paid me ENOUGH to do that!

It's a mess that won't be sorted any time soon, I'm afraid.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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