Last month seven U.S. states announced intentions to revamp teacher-preparation and licensing requirements that essentially make it tougher to become and remain a teacher. Some of the new requirements include steeper admission requirements for teacher-training programs and licensing based on performance of a specific set of skills. The plan is intended to make for better teachers, and ultimately better students over time, but stricter teacher requirements will not necessarily lead to higher-achieving students.
There are still too many outside forces with which everyday teachers contend that make it difficult for them to be as effective as legislation and policy-makers would like. Training and education for teachers is not the problem; here are three issues in K-12 education that have a larger negative impact on overall learning for students:
- Lack of parental involvement. Of all the things out of the control of teachers, this one is perhaps the most frustrating. Time spent in the classroom is simply not enough for teachers to instruct every student in what he or she needs to know. There must be some interaction outside school hours too. Of course, students at a socio-economic disadvantage often struggle in school, particularly if parents lack higher levels of education. Students from middle and upper class families aren't off the hook though. The demands of careers and an over-dependence on schools put higher-class kids at risk too when it comes to the lack of parental involvement in academics.
I'm not saying that stricter teacher requirements are a bad thing - I'm just not sure that is where all the focus should be. What about a program that targets parental and community involvement in what kids are learning? Maybe even a seminar for parents on tangible ways to get more involved academically in what their kids do at school? There is no way to make parents attend these but perhaps there could be an incentive. With the right funding, I'm sure schools could find a way.
Instead of making it harder to become a teacher, why not spend money on making classroom size smaller and more manageable when those teachers start their careers? Or on technology programs and training that give teachers an advantage when it comes to educational gaming?
This pilot teacher-prep program seems like just another way to blame teachers for what they cannot control. More education can't hurt, but there are so many other issues that deserve this spotlight instead.
What do you think about stricter teacher-prep laws?