Making teaching a true profession

Not only does a true professional certification process for teachers make sense, it is long overdue.

For too long, we have tolerated a hodge-podge of teacher licensing and certification requirements across states and within states. In some places, a potential teacher must have a master’s degree in education before applying for a license. In other places, a person needs only a bachelor’s degree (in any subject) and as little as three weeks of summer boot camp to be placed in full charge of students.

The call by the AFT task force is just the latest in a growing consensus among educators of the need to make teaching a true profession. I have been fortunate to be part of many of these studies and discussions. For example, in November 2010, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) issued the report of a blue-ribbon commission representing teachers, parents, higher education, state and local school administrators, researchers, and policymakers. The Commission called for more rigorous teacher candidate selection and preparation noting, “The nation needs an entire system of excellent programs, not a cottage industry of path-breaking initiatives.” The 2012 book, The American Public School Teacher, in which a broad range of education commentators reflect on 50 years of teacher survey data, highlights the growing support among teachers for ideas such as performance pay and peer evaluation.

It is also worth noting that the membership and leadership of the much-maligned teacher unions have been at the forefront of these calls. Earlier this year, NEA released the report of a similar task force (Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching) advocating for “collective accountability and collaborative autonomy.” Specifically, the 21-teacher Commission argued for the creation of national teacher standards and for “one national umbrella group” that would “lead to preparation, licensure, and certification processes that are consistent, efficient, and cost effective.” At the other end of the career spectrum, we teachers on that Commission also recognized the need for “an evidence-based, peer review teacher evaluation system.” Tying teacher evaluation to the Common Core State Standards specifically, may be premature and unwise, given that the CCSS are just the most recent in a series of standards, and these have yet to be implemented and proven in the field.

In our 2011 book, TEACHING 2030, members of the Teacher Leader Network predicted many of the conditions and changes now being discussed around the teaching profession. As co-author Cindi Rigsbee correctly noted, “We must expect the respect for teaching afforded to all other jobs. That is a goal that can only be reached once the world begins to look at teaching as a different profession that it was when our great-grandmothers taught school.”

The creation of a true teaching profession will require cooperation among the many education stakeholders, but it is clearly possible and necessary for our children’s sake. Moreover, Americans have shown consistently they are willing to pay for quality education for our children. Raising the overall quality and status of the teaching profession, lays the necessary moral and economic groundwork for more appropriate professional compensation.

Cross-posted at National Journal.com

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