A First, Small Crack in the Education-College Monopoly
By Vin Suprynowicz
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Bowing to necessity, the Professional Standards Commission of Nevada's state education bureaucracy finally approved an "alternative route to teacher licensure" by a 6-1 vote at its regular meeting Sept. 27.
Initially, the opening up of some Las Vegas teaching posts to those who have not "put in their time" in the colleges of education will involve only bilingual teachers, which the district has been consistently unable to recruit in the desired numbers.
The new standard OK'd last week requires the Human Resources Division of each district to "prove we've done everything we can to find these people through the usual college-of-education programs," explains George Ann Rice, assistant superintendent of Human Resources for the Clark County School District.
"In other words, we have to prove a need to the state department. Then I have to sign an affidavit that we won't use this program to supplant, but only to supplement, recruiting from the college of education, or those who have their education degree already."
Come springtime, the district may start recruiting candidates for the "alternative route to licensure" among those with expertise in mathematics or the sciences, as well.
Of course, such teachers won't indefinitely escape the requirement that they take the stipulated number of "ed" credits.
After taking a "pre-professional" teaching proficiency test (and after demonstrating oral as well as written Spanish proficiency, in the case of the current crop of bilingual recruits), new candidates attracted under the program will undergo "120 hours of staff development to indicate to us that they do have the potential," Ms. Rice explains. "Then they would have a mentor on the staff, a full-time teacher who we pay a little additional stipend to, in order to give time during their prep time and after school."
Even as they enter the classroom and begin teaching, these "career-hoppers" will begin work on a Masters program in education, taking intensive classes on Friday evenings and Saturdays "until they end up with the very same license and classes as everyone else," Ms. Rice reports.
"They have three years to take the courses, they must be taking the classes as they go. Any time they get an unsatisfactory grade or evaluation, they are eliminated from the program."
The Professional Standards Commission has just taken a long-overdue first step toward breaking the stranglehold of the established colleges of education, with their trendy emphasis on such twaddle as "look-and-guess" reading in place of tried-and-true phonetics ("What does the letter sound like?")
While some competent and dedicated teachers still survive the "ed school" oatmeal grinder, the fact remains that Albert Einstein would be turned away at the door if he showed up in Nevada (or most other states -- Texas and California are happy exceptions) today looking for a chance to teach math or science, as would J.R.R. Tolkien if he applied to lecture in English literature.
No "certificate"? -- go back to school for a couple of years at your own expense, and we might add you to the bottom of the list.
While on the other hand, gym teachers can be and are put in charge of high school math and science classes in many states these days, based on a few half-forgotten college courses they took years ago, so long as they've got that magic "certificate."
The biggest remaining question: Why all this rigamarole about "certified shortages," all these over-the-top disclaimers about "not using this program to supplant, but only to supplement" recruiting from the "ed" schools?
Are the taxpayers and their school districts bond-servants to the colleges of education? Who's "serving" whom?
In the end, any attempt to "reform" the government schools is probably doomed. Demand three math credits to graduate, and the boards of education will certify wood shop as a "math class" (as is the case right now in Nevada.) Demand tougher tests, and they'll just convert them to "open book" exams. Anything to maintain the myth that these little "socialization" academies -- propaganda centers for the glories of the Welfare State -- are actually in the business of traditional academic "education."
But to the extent that anyone wants to continue the doomed struggle, "ed school" graduates, at the very least, should have to compete without preference against teacher applicants who have acquired their expertise by any other means that came to hand.
The goal should be to hire the best available teacher in any subject area -- not just those where the "protected" ed schools fail to turn out enough warm bodies for the casting call.
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.
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