Posts Tagged 'alternative certification'

It’s Time for Alternative Certification Programs to be Fined for Quitting-Teachers

3571102858_54d5b5f58c_mBy Nick McDaniels – Every year, teacher employment opportunities in areas served by alternative certification programs balloon after the first month or so of school.

The reason: Teachers, not all of them alternatively certified, quit. The job is hard. The job rarely meets expectations. People, particularly those with other marketable skills, give up. These truths do not change the fact that quitting teachers have an almost impossible to quantify negative impact on a school. It would be hard, of course, to hold individuals accountable for leaving their jobs. The sacrifice of salary and benefits is a pretty harsh price to pay as it is.

But alternative certification programs with robust budgets, much from public dollars, have committed to providing teachers to the areas they serve. They receive funding, sometimes on a per-head basis, for this service. And so when they don’t provide the service, like most government contractors, they should be fined. Such a policy would require contract re-negotiations with these programs.

Let’s face it, corporate darling Teach for America isn’t going to leave the industry just because communities are demanding a service that doesn’t leave kids teacherless by October. The New Teacher Project will have to accept clauses involving fines. Otherwise, they admit their service is an epic failure.

Where would these fines go? Better substitute teacher training, better teacher recruitment, better new teacher support, better retention efforts. In other words, when these programs can’t guarantee quality teachers who do not quit on children, they should have to give some of their funding back to school systems who can try to mitigate the harm.

Until we start holding these programs accountable for their failures, we should not be willing to praise them for their successes. If we are willing to give them our money, we must also be willing to take it away.

Monopoly on Teacher Training

By Nick McDaniels — Recently Baltimore City Public Schools, like many school districts around the nation in this economy, has severely limited the hiring of new teachers. In fact, principals in the district are only allowed to choose from teachers who are alternatively certified or teachers that were considered surplus somewhere else in the district.

You read that correctly: any teacher that wants a job in Baltimore City better either already work in the district or be from either Teach For America (TFA) or Baltimore City Teaching Residency (BCTR).

The severe teaching shortage that spawned a need for alternative certification programs no longer exists. However, these programs continue to expand their influence, and by way of robust contracts, maintain a stranglehold on the hiring of new teachers in districts around the country.

Those of you who know me, know that I had a tremendously difficult time getting a job as a traditionally trained teacher in one of the nation’s most needy school districts. Today, it would be an impossibility.

As consumers in this economy we are encouraged that competition helps to bring us better products at lesser costs. I am concerned then, as a resident of Baltimore City, that I am going to send my daughter to a school where alternative certification programs have monopolized staffing, thus allowing no competition to provide better teachers for my child. For the economists out there, and I am surely not one, I realize that this is more of an oligopoly than a monopoly as TFA and BCTR are competing organizations, though they are no doubt cut from the same cloth. I consider them like Democrats and Republicans, only two of many viable political options, but the only two parties that are allowed to fully participate in our democracy, or, in more consumerist terms, like Apple’s OSX and Windows, only two of many operating system choices, but the only two that most people are aware of.

While I personally believe that traditionally trained teachers are far more ready to make an immediate positive impact on children, I am not advocating for the abolition of alternative certification programs. Quite frankly, I am proud to stand next to alternatively certified teachers in the hallways every day. I have planned lessons with them, broken up fights with them, and learned a great deal from them. In the end, we are all teachers, doing the same difficult work.

I am advocating for choice. Before we get so far along in history that the only teachers poor and often minority children know are alternatively certified teachers, we need to intervene and be sure that talented, eager, invested students from local universities have a fair chance at earning local teaching positions, that they are allowed to student teach in local schools where they might again hope that there could be a job waiting for them at the end of their program.

Parents, students, community members, principals, other teachers should all have a voice in where new teachers come from. As a parent, if my child is going to have a brand new teacher, which is not ideal, I would prefer if it were at the very least a possibility that my child would have a teacher that has been invested in the community, one that has perhaps attended a local university (Morgan State University, Loyola University Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, and Towson University are all just a few miles from my house), and has served field placements in the local school system as an undergrad.

If the teacher matters more than anything else in education, as has been the mantra of the recent education reform movement, why are we not making more of an effort to ensure that the teachers who are the best prepared are given priority opportunity to reach our children?

We need to rethink hiring practices with the best interest of students in mind, and if the teacher is such a necessary component of a good education, then why, with all we know about the evils of monopolization, are we not encouraged to provide parents, students, community members, principals, and teachers, with a free and open choice about who teaches our children?

Lucky to Teach in Charm City

By Nick McDaniel – As my second year of teaching nears the end of its first month, I am struck by the good fortune that has allowed me to teach in a school where I am appreciated and where my passion for teaching the children of Baltimore is not smothered by a national educational climate capable of stifling even the most committed of teachers (see Dean Henk’s post “Teacher Firings…” below). The truth now for me, with a family to provide for, is that I am grateful to have a job; doing a job that I love is the bonus I accept for loving a job that most others would not even try long enough to hate.

I am fortunate to have a principal who stuck his neck out to hire me when no one else in Baltimore seemed willing.  I was so deep on the list of prospective teaching candidates that getting an interview was difficult. I was in line behind teachers who had been displaced, because their schools had been closed and behind candidates from alternative certification programs whose agencies hold contracts guaranteeing their candidates’ placement.

After feeling frustrated that being a fully certified new teacher seemed to give me no preferential treatment over the vast number of uncertified teachers in this city, I am fortunate now that I have the opportunity to prove that hiring young, certified teachers who perform well and produce results is still an option for struggling school systems and schools.

While I am proud to be teaching alongside passionate uncertified teachers from alternative certification programs, and I believe the positive impact on the lives of children that these programs (more importantly the candidates in these programs) make is clear, I am most proud of taking a traditional path into the classroom and of committing myself to this work before I entered college. I am fortunate to have been trained to be a teacher. This training allowed me to thrive in an environment that  has proven capable of snuffing out the fire that brings the young, bright, and talented to America’s most challenging classrooms.

It is with this sentiment that I hope Marquette School/College of Education Alumni working in schools across the country consider themselves fortunate to have been prepared for their work by a teacher preparation program with a conscience and recognize that it is their duty to support young teachers who may or may not have had such good fortune.

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