Do we want a teaching profession or not?

What might happen if we asked a group of teachers who have consistently demonstrated themselves to be highly effective to “craft a new vision of a teaching profession that is led by teachers and ensures teacher and teaching effectiveness”?

As the NEA recently discovered, you might get the unexpected.

After much examination and debate, the Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching (CETT) put forward several recommendations, ideas, and challenges, some specifically to the NEA, but also to teacher preparation programs, school districts, state and federal education agencies, lawmakers, and teachers ourselves.

One of the most significant of these recommendations is the call for a National Council for the Teaching Profession to establish a consistent system of preparation, licensure, and certification of all teachers and teacher educators.

According to our report, this “NCTP will work to ensure that each state’s teaching standards are no less rigorous than the national standards. Alignment among state standards will facilitate teacher quality and mobility from state to state” (7).

Few people realize how difficult it is for teachers who are licensed in one state to move and teach in another. In our increasingly mobile society, that is not just an economic inconvenience, it also makes it unnecessarily difficult for schools and districts to recruit and retain teachers their students desperately need.  A coordinated system would end the confusing patchwork of teacher preparation programs and dissonant licensure rules across the country.

The uneven quality of teaching in America is directly proportional to our chaotic and archaic approaches to teacher preparation, certification, and evaluation.  My Teacher Leader colleagues and I, in our book, Teaching 2030, summarized the sad state of affairs at that point:

  • Over 600 alternative certification programs offering abbreviated pedagogical training (usually just a few weeks) to novices before placing them in some of the most challenging teaching situations.
  • 43 states require teacher candidates to pass some type of written subject area test, but only five require them to demonstrate knowledge of how to teach the subject.
  • Only 39 states require potential teacher candidates to do student teaching, and that may range from 8 to 20 weeks (out of the average 36 week school year).
  • In most places there are no requirements for who gets to supervise student teachers and no requirements that those supervisors should themselves be effective teachers who know how to mentor new recruits.

The CETT calls for a coordinated effort, building on work done by other groups and stakeholders in teacher preparation, accreditation, licensure, and standards to weave this disparate but overlapping work into one coherent system that is “consistent, efficient, and cost effective” (7).  In our vision of such a system, teacher licensure would have a multi-tiered system: initial licensure, awarded by individual states; then one or more additional tiers of fully portable national licenses that “certify accomplished preparation and practice” (7).

An important part of our recommendations on this point was the idea that those who hold leadership (administrative) positions in education and those who work in teacher preparation programs, should be effective teachers and have earned these same certifications. In fact, this entire national certification process should be led by effective teachers.

Do you agree with us that teaching should begin to function like a true profession?