As Jonathan Zimmerman points out, most schools of education prefer to be the only route to certifying teachers in our public schools. But, says Zimmerman:
I take a different view. These new routes into teaching could transform the profession, by attracting the type of student that has eluded education schools for far too long. We should extend an olive branch to our competitors, instead of circling the wagons against them.
The biggest challenger at the moment is Teach for America (TFA), which recruits graduating seniors, mostly from elite colleges, and places them as teachers in public schools following a five-week training course. Last year, a whopping 11% of all Ivy League seniors applied to TFA. It was the No. 1 employer at several other top colleges, including Georgetown and the University of Chicago.
And last month, the New York State Board of Regents voted to let groups like TFA create their own master’s degree programs. Until now, in states that require teachers to obtain master’s degrees in education, TFA recruits have had to study for the degree at night to become fully certified. But under the new plan, teachers will be able to join the profession without ever setting foot in a school of education.
So, there’s always room for improvement. The backbone of an economy is really a cultural idea about innovation and progress. An economy should move as fast and as flexibly as a person with the right education would move. If something needs to be changed, it should be changed. If a person in an economy can gather the right thinkers and doers and realize something of lasting benefit to the market and the people make up that market, it should be able to move generally, and positively, in that direction.
That’s what this story about alternative teacher certification means. Groups like Teach for America have been able to amass knowledge, experience and momentum, and they should be allowed to show they can manage and cultivate new teachers.
There are problems, though. Education schools will still pound the tables for legitimacy and a return to their rightful places in our society. Zimmerman proposes not leaving them out. A kind of bone for the dog to cushion the soft blow of change. Recruits would still have to spend a year on the job before really being certified. This would give recruits a chance to work with education colleges throughout.
That would require a group like TFA to take applications from college juniors, not seniors. And these recruits would commit to taking a nine-month education course, meeting for at least three hours per week.
Then they could spend the summer after graduation as full-fledged student teachers. Instead of a five-week boot camp, they’d get a complete, supervised apprenticeship under an experienced professional.