The Rising Tide: Certification

Beth Maloney Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership

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An education “reformer” floated a proposal to the Governor’s Classrooms First Council that would allow local education agencies (LEAs) to certify teachers independently.  The Council agreed that local certification wasn’t a solution and would cause more harm than good.  However, I hear that there may be a similar bill during this legislation session.


Will this address the teacher shortage?

No.  No LEA in Arizona is operationally ready to certify or has the capacity to certify those initially coming into the profession.  Districts can barely manage quality professional development for practicing teachers now.  Additionally, rural and high needs districts will jump on this idea first and lower quality teacher criteria.  If that happens, students who need the most will suffer by losing access to high quality teachers fastest.


What about reciprocity with other states?

There are about 230 school districts in the state and many, many charters.  If each LEA were to create their own teacher quality criteria for certification, it would create hundreds of different criteria for teacher certification and make it virtually impossible for teachers to move around the state.  Other states would be highly unlikely to accept any kind of local certification and any teacher leaving the state would have to take additional measures to become certified to teach in another state.


How will this affect the teaching profession?

The scary reality is that some reformers are using this issue as a lever against our profession.  If you lower the quality criteria for teachers, you can justify a lower compensation since requirements drop.  There would be no continuity for teacher quality if LEAs certify their own teachers.  Expert Linda Darling-Hammond says of lowering teacher quality, “This leaves teachers underprepared and under supported to do the important job they need to do. It is no way to build a profession. In fact, it creates an anti-profession.”  We cannot afford a disinvestment in the quality of educators at a time when we are asking more of teachers and more of our students.  More from Linda Darling-Hammond, “The core value of every profession is that everyone in the profession has a common body of knowledge and skills needed to be responsible and effective. When you have a lot of people coming in with very little training, confidence in the profession goes down. Lowering standards also drives salaries down, which then makes it hard to recruit and keep good people in the profession. The whole enterprise of teaching is seriously undermined.”


What is the solution?

Although you may think I’m starting to sound like a broken record, the real issue isn’t certification – it’s the job itself.  States must select high-quality people who have ability and will to work in education as a teacher leader.  And there must be a commitment to support these professional educators throughout their careers, from pre-service through accomplished teaching.  A rising tide lifts all ships.


From Linda Darling-Hammond:


Beth Maloney

Surprise, Arizona

Beth Maloney is currently in her seventeenth year of teaching and enjoys every minute of her time in the classroom. She has taught kindergarten, third grade, and is currently teaching fifth grade in Surprise, Arizona. Beth is a National Board Certified Teacher as an Early Childhood Generalist and is a Candidate Support Provider for the Arizona K12 Center, where she coaches and mentors other teachers undergoing the rigorous National Board certification. She is a member of the Arizona TeacherSolutions® Team, a Teacher Champion Fellow through the Collaborative for Student Success, and is appointed to the Governor’s Classrooms First Council. Beth is honored to be Arizona’s 2014 Teacher of the Year and appreciates having the opportunity to represent the teachers of Arizona. Beth was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Northern Arizona University and is currently pursuing her doctoral degree. Beth loves talking with and learning from other teachers around the world. She strongly believes that teacher voice in the public education dialogue is the best way to make change for the better for all students.

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  • Maren Johnson

    Great post Beth! Such an important topic. The teacher shortage was not caused by high standards for certification, and lowering standards will not solve it.