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Monday, October 11, 2010

Teacher certification doesn't make teachers better

All 50 states have teacher-certification requirements. The justification being that, in order to determine who is a qualified teacher, prospects must be subjected to a lengthy process of schooling and testing. Typically, certified teachers have completed a degree in education (or have taken upwards of 30 hours of education-related coursework), completed a semester of student teaching and passed several hundred dollars worth of tests (which the would-be teachers usually pay to take).

Even after becoming certified, teachers have to jump through dozens of hoops, including more coursework, more seminars and more testing. But, as it turns out, all of this effort, testing and screening is for nothing.

The left-of-center Brookings Institution recently published a report called "Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job," and found that certified teachers are virtually indistinguishable from alternatively certified and uncertified teachers when it comes to educating and improving student achievement.



The above graph overlays the bell curve for each category of teacher – Traditionally certified, Alternatively certified and Uncertified – for their ability to positively or negatively affect student performance.

As the Brookings Institution discovered, an uncertified teacher is just as likely as a certified one to improve a student's level of educational achievement. So why is Nevada keeping qualified but uncertified teachers out of the classroom? Wouldn't students be better off if we were to replace certified but unqualified teachers with qualified but uncertified (or alternatively certified) teachers?

Nevada needs to focus on hiring quality teachers, and de-emphasize certification. We need to figure out how to hire and retain the teachers on the right side of that graph – those who can improve student achievement – while getting rid of the teachers on the left, who do the opposite.

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