California’s Highly Qualified But Not ‘Highly Qualified’ Teachers
The NYT highlights a California magnet school with a f highly skilled faculty and students achieving top scores on their standardized exams where several veteran teachers are quitting rather than comply with demeaning credentialism requirements the state has implemented to comply with the No Child Left Behind law.
Under California law, a teacher must successfully complete a certification program to fulfill the mandate of No Child Left Behind that there be a “highly qualified” instructor in every classroom. Marilyn Errett, an administrator with the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing, said California did offer a fast-track route for experienced teachers in the core subjects of English, science and math, as well as a path that combined a teaching internship with 100 hours of college course work.
She was not sympathetic, however, to the notion that teachers with doctorates and instructional experience at college get some kind of waiver. “Certainly, no one is questioning their grasp of the subject matter,” she said. But she added that they need to learn how to work with children in immigrant families who have limited English skills and students being moved from special education classes to regular ones. “Those are skills we think they need to have,” she said.
I would agree that a subject matter doctorate does not guarantee that its possessor has any teaching skills, let alone training in how to cope with problem children. Requiring aspiring teachers to complete additional training in those areas is perfectly reasonable.
Unfortunately, the implementation goes well beyond that:
Mr. Huyck had watched his wife, Sarah Whittier, also a faculty member at Pacific Collegiate, plod through a certification course. At the age of 53, after receiving a doctorate in English literature and winning a statewide award for excellence in teaching — both at the University of California, Santa Cruz — she was racing most afternoons straight from Pacific Collegiate to teacher-certification classes 90 minutes away in the Monterey area. There, seated among classmates in their early 20’s, some of them headed for positions in elementary school, she received lessons in such topics as writing a lesson plan and maintaining classroom order. “To me, it’s a badge of shame,” she said of the teaching certification. “It’s an embarrassment. It’s infantilizing.”
Having witnessed his wife’s humiliation, Mr. Huyck decided to leave Pacific Collegiate rather than comply with California’s requirements under the federal law. Going against his characteristic modesty, he also made certain that people around the school knew what he was doing and why he was doing it. “I wanted my position to be known,” he said in an interview. “I think knowledge in this case inspires indignation.”
The irony is that the type of person who would not be insulted by such a program is precisely the kind of person we do not want teaching, especially at the high school level.
Unfortunately, the education establishment has been dominated for decades by the teachers’ colleges and their emphasis in pedagogy rather than subject matter expertise. Indeed, one suspects that people on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing have degrees in Education and actually resent people like Huyck and Whittier for proving that people who actually know their subjects are more effective teachers.