In parts I, II, and III of this series, I have discussed the State of Texas law that allows public school districts in the state to certify their own teachers. In this, the final column in the series, I want to share some responses from readers:
Tom Shawhan, retired teacher/coach: I know that a hired teacher at IDEA Public Schools does not need state certification to teach. Do they get permits to teach? (My Note: IDEA does not certify teachers. The state requires that all charter school teachers hold a bachelor’s degree, but only bilingual and special education teachers must be state-certified.) I believe that a teacher should have a college degree in their field of expertise. I think that the state has a responsibility to require that a person has the needed tools to, and this is an important word, EFFECTIVELY guide and instruct the student through their field of study. Required certification does not guarantee student success, but it does qualify the teacher to have the proper background to begin the process. It's as if the teaching profession is being relegated to no more than a paraprofessional status. We have done this to ourselves when we, as a profession, do not police our own and allow incompetence to filter in. Take, for example, that the state certifies doctors and lawyers, but they have the medical boards and bar associations to regulate the quality of professionalism that exists. I think that a teacher should enter a certification program after their degree for two years after they graduate. This would be considered an intern program just as it is in the medical field to become a doctor. Those extra two years of learning with a teaching practicum gives teachers the needed guidance that can lead to an effective teacher.
Audree Krell, McAllen ISD high school teacher: I am OK with certification for CTE (career and technology education) courses only when they complete the criteria set for all ACPs (Alternative Certification Programs). If they want to be considered, they need to meet the same requirements because, in the end, they need to be prepared for our students the best they can.
I asked, “So you're saying no bachelor's but industry certification PLUS the ACP hours?”
Audree Krell: Yes. For CTE trades only, not business courses.
Harold Mosher, retired educator: I believe it would be a step that could eventually lead the state legislature to back away from additional funding indicating that the district is now the sole employer of the individual teachers. Just a thought.
Karen Aguirre, McAllen ISD elementary teacher: I do think student teaching should be required when doing an ACP program. I'm not sure I would have been as prepared for my job if I had not been a paraprofessional for two years prior. It was all worth it in the end.
Marsha Gonzalez, Edinburg CISD elementary teacher: When I attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, we were required to have the following field experiences as part of our course work: one semester as a teacher assistant, one semester working in one of three facilities (St. Coletta - Intellectually Disadvantaged, prison facility, or Mendota- mental health facility), one semester at Head Start, one semester "Pre-Student Teaching," and one semester of student teaching. As a veteran teacher who has attended numerous workshop over the past 30 years, those 20 hours are just not enough. As we go through the years, more and more students come to us with such a wide scope of mental health issues, learning disabilities, and physical impairments. I can see why there might be teachers on growth plans or that people view as incompetent. Our roles as educators have changed drastically from preparing lessons and educating our students. Nowadays, teachers must provide so many services to their students. It's sad to say this, but in the primary grades, teachers have to teach students to talk and how to eat with utensils and even contend with other self-help skills, like potty training, which is quite alarming. Districts need to think carefully about the decisions they make and the impact they will have on students and teachers. After all, our schools are only as strong as our weakest links. We need to do better for our students and to help our new teachers.
Great, and important, conversation. Communities need to discuss issues like this that affect our communities’ children now, and the entire community in the future, and determine what is best for our children.
Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media and works as a sales coordinator for Tony Roma's and Macaroni Grill. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.