Extra Credit: Open Classroom Doors to Better Teachers

(By Julie Zhu)
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dear Extra Credit:

I share your concern about the irrational rules that govern teacher accreditation ["Certification of Teachers as Painful Farce," Sept. 7]. I have a bachelor's and a master's degree in computer science and have taught professional development courses to help prep Advanced Placement Computer Science teachers for Montgomery County. So I'm considered qualified to teach teachers but not their students.

What of the resistance from education administrators and unions to alternative certification? Our group, FrederickEducationReform.com, has been pushing for Frederick County and Maryland to adopt the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence process. The nonprofit American Board offers a mostly online approach to preparing for teaching, less expensive and more flexible for people raising families and working other jobs. It is recognized in nine states, the closest one to Washington being Pennsylvania.

Although U.S. teachers are drawn from the bottom third of college graduates, administrators at the local level have shown little interest in allowing highly educated people to be able to be considered for teaching positions unless they have formal coursework. But research has shown that classroom approach to matter very little, if at all. Teacher certification tends to do the opposite of what it should: It erects a low, unnecessary barrier that keeps too many highly qualified people out.

Tom Neumark


I just learned that the American Board president, Dave Saba, once worked for The Washington Post's corporate partner, Kaplan. I don't know Saba and don't think his connection has anything to do with my views on this subject, but I thought it worth noting.

Maryland State Department of Education spokesman William Reinhard told me the state "worked several years with the American Board" but could not cut a deal. One of the problems, Reinhard said, was that the American Board wanted a shorter internship than the four to six weeks that the state considers "a vital check on a potential teacher's effectiveness."

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