Has the Time Come for National Teacher Certification?
Recently, “Education Daily” reported that instituting national teacher certification is almost a reality. The article speculated that within 20 years, thousands of teachers will have voluntarily met rigorous national standards to be certified to teach. Such a certificate proposes to put them on par with other professionals such as physicians and accountants.
John Porter, vice-president of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, spoke at the annual convention for the National Association of Secondary School Principals. He told the attendees that “the effects of [national teacher certification] will be felt in a strengthened profession and renewed schools.” He also stated that “Board-certified teachers will be sought after and will be expected to make a powerful contribution to the quality of education available to America’s youth.” Porter believes the Board will have the certification system set up by 1993 if $50 million in funding is secured. The Board plans to have a demonstration project operative by the end of this year. Once the system is set up, Porter estimates that 75,000 teachers will seek national certification each year.
The national certification board will set rigorous standards of evaluating teachers voluntarily applying for certification. Teachers will be evaluated based upon how well they know the subjects they teach, how well their knowledge is imparted to their students, how well they organize instructional settings to develop connections between different subjects, and how well they manage the classroom, use curricular materials, and plan and execute lessons. Teachers will have to prove themselves in the classroom for several years before seeking national certification. Porter expects the success rate for passing the certification examination will be similar to the success achieved by certified public accountants. National certification would not replace state licensing requirements, but Porter believes that states may create “board-compatible” standards as the system gains popularity.
Porter warned the principals that once teachers become certified as professionals, they will demand a greater voice in how schools are run and their salaries will rise, probably surpassing those of school administrators. He believes that teachers who have demonstrated success in turning around problem students deserve greater compensation than administrators. Also, principals will be able to rely upon these teachers to act as mentors for other teachers. Nationally certified teachers will be prime candidates for higher instructional leadership positions.
HSLDA foresees possible difficulty for home schoolers if national certification is implemented. National teacher certification would create an elite class of teachers and increase the controversy around the benefit of having certified teachers involved in educational programs. This may cause some states to reconsider their qualification standards for home schooling. They may begin to doubt whether parents can be qualified enough to compare with the new professional, nationwide standards. As a result, home schoolers need to continue to compile research on the academic success of home school children who are taught by non-certified parents. Furthermore, home schoolers must carefully monitor their state legislatures in order to prevent the enactment of any legislation that would require parent testing or certification.
The National Education Association, along with other education lobbying groups, argues that certification of teachers insures a quality education. However, on February 14, 1989, U.S. District Judge Lowell Jensen, from the Northern District of California, opined that “[g]ood teachers are good teachers no matter what the educational challenge may be.” He stated that there was no evidence that students in classes with credentialed teachers accomplished more than those in classes with non-credentialed teachers.
Sam Peavey, Professor Emeritus of the School of Education of the University of Louisville, testified before the Compulsory Education Study Committee of the Iowa State Legislature on the issue of teacher certification. (For his complete testimony, see “The Home School Court Report,” Winter 1989.) He stated, “A half-century of research fails to show any significant correlation between a teacher’s certificate and students’ achievement.” After fifty years of research, no significant correlation can be established between the requirements for teacher certification and the quality of student achievement. Peavey believes that certification and accreditation do serve a purpose. However, he suggests that educators and legislators determine the quality of learning by looking at student outcomes rather than at the teacher’s qualifications.