How the System Ensures Teacher Quality

(Guest Post by Stuart Buck)

As we have seen in the past, teacher licensing requirements have little relation to student achievement. One reason for this may be that rather than driving up teacher quality, licensure requirements can be so full of bureaucratic red tape that they drive away smart and knowledgeable teaching candidates who have other options.

In support of that theory, I offer an anecdote, namely an email from a good friend of mine who has more knowledge and training than most prospective teachers — she went to Princeton for undergrad, Yale for a master’s degree, and Harvard for law school. But before she can even get in the door and start studying pedagogical techniques and the like, she is being told that she has to take nine (9) more undergraduate courses of background knowledge.

Here’s her email:

Hey, Stuart! I am planning on entering a teacher licensing program this summer, with the goal of eventually teaching 4th or 5th grade in a low-income school. . . .

My current hurdle is that the local university took a look at my Princeton, Yale, and Harvard transcripts and determined that I need to take 9 undergraduate courses to even enter the licensing program. I can understand (on some level) needing to take three more science courses, but they also claim that I need to take courses in early American history (for some reason, constitutional law and all of my early American government classes don’t count), world geography (my specialization at Yale in international politics isn’t enough), and world civilization. Plus none of my corporate finance courses or econ courses can count toward the math requirements.

Very frustrating. I’m trying hard not to let the bureaucratic hurdles get me down.

So a graduate of Princeton, Yale, and Harvard is being told that she is woefully undereducated for the task of teaching disadvantaged 4th graders. Res ipsa loquitur, as lawyers say.

3 Responses to How the System Ensures Teacher Quality

  1. Daniel Earley says:

    I recall back in my charter school startup days our hiring of a retired rocket scientist from Thiokol (makers of the shuttle booster engines) to teach calculus. A master storyteller with real world experiences for every concept, the students literally sat on the edge of their seats and absorbed everything. Needless to say, they excelled. Yet we still had to ask him to waste his time taking classes for “proper” credentials. Fortunately for us he graciously complied, but at no small inconvenience.

  2. Matthew Ladner says:

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