Jay Mathews: Teachers' E-mails Depict Certification as Painful Farce

By Jay Mathews
Monday, September 7, 2009

Iwas flooded with e-mails after my Aug. 24 column on high school teacher Jonathan Keiler. Prince George's County officials said he was going to lose his certification because he had not taken enough education school courses, even though he had a law degree and was the only person at his school with the highly regarded National Board Certification. Shortly after I told county and state officials that I was going to write about Keiler's situation, he was told that he had enough courses after all.

That change of tune was maddening to the teachers who wrote me. So were what they considered the uselessness of many education courses they were required to take and the faulty information they often received about the advanced training they did or didn't need. I learned much from them. Here is a sampling:

"I'm a 17-year science teacher in Montgomery County. I was actually fired two years ago for not having the 'right' Advanced Professional Certificate (APC) credits. The online credits I was told would be accepted were denied. I later managed to complete the required credits online from the University of Phoenix -- which was extremely lame but easy to do and is recognized by Montgomery County -- in less than three weeks. By then the deadline had run out and I was fired from my job but rehired as a long-term substitute. Demoralizing to say the least. Financially I took a very big hit."

-- Clint Sandford

"I have a BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown for 152 credits, an MA in teaching English as a Second Language from the American University in Cairo (33 credits), an MA in Islamic Studies plus two years of course work in that subject at the University of Toronto (33 credits), a BEd. from Toronto (30 credits), an MBA from the University of West Ontario (69 credits) and 21 credits from Montgomery College. When I came to the U.S., I got certified in Virginia, North Carolina, Delaware and West Virginia. I was not worthy to be certified in Maryland or Pennsylvania because of their very specific requirements (for example, things like Black literature)."

-- Robert Cavanaugh

"I am a lawyer turned teacher, initially certified through the Resident Teacher program. Last year an Education Program Specialist from the Maryland state education department told me that my law degree would count as a master's for the purpose of the APC, and that all I needed was the six semester credits that teachers have to take every five years to keep their certificate up to date. I took my courses at Bowie State (useless time and money waster), sent in my requests and got a letter from a different EPS stating that, despite the representations of the previous EPS, I would only receive credit for two of Georgetown Law's constitutional law classes, and I needed 15 more credits to get my APC. At least I will have your piece to comfort me as I trudge my way back and forth to Bowie State for my 15 credits and look at my bank statement for the missing $15,000."

-- Jeanne Jones

"To get a middle school endorsement in Iowa, I needed six credit hours in algebra and geometry on the college level, among other courses. Since I had eight credit hours in college calculus I assumed that would be accepted, but to be certain, I called the department of education. Nope. Since I didn't take algebra and geometry in college (silly me -- I was bright and was able to take them in high school), I would have to take them at the college level for them to count toward my middle school endorsement. I explained that I had eight credits of HIGHER-level math in college. They agreed that was unfortunate."

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