Spring is here and parents may already be thinking about next year and what teachers their students will get. School districts used to be vigilant about ensuring teachers had the right state credentials. That may no longer be the case. Now there are many online programs that are not accredited, and fast-track teacher preparation programs making teachers with little education background. But a parent has the right to know who’s teaching their child.
Here is a condensed post from the past that includes questions to ask teachers. The PTA might interview teachers to collect this information for the following school year so that parents can be well-informed about teachers in the school. Creating a directory with this information would make it less awkward and time-consuming for parents to find out this information when school starts.
- Do you have state certification in the subject you are teaching? This means that an elementary teacher should have qualifications from an accredited school to teach elementary school. In secondary schools, teachers should be credentialed in the subject, along with education courses that deal with that particular age group.
- What is your background in special education? If general education teachers are teaching students who are gifted, twice-exceptional, have dyslexia, or any disability it is important to determine if they have received any preparation. You might ask special education teachers this question too. Some special education teachers come from Teach for America or other fast-track programs.
- For elementary school, how will you teach reading. They should be able to briefly describe any programs they are using or how they will go about it.
- If it is a high school, make sure graduation requirements are distributed. This is especially important if your student has a disability. You will want to know about testing requirements and whether students get special diplomas if they don’t do well on the test.
- What college did you attend? In some states almost anyone can teach. There are many online programs that lack accreditation. Ask your child’s teacher where they went to school. Hopefully, it will be a well-known university. If you have never heard of the school, check on it on the Internet. Look to see what kind of education program is offered. Not all college programs are alike.
- What is the protocol used if a student falls behind? Most schools provide graded lists of what is expected at each grade level.
- Do you have alternative certification? If this is the case, ask what program it is from. I would be leery if they say Relay, Teach for America, Teaching Fellows, or other fast-track training.
- Is a teacher from an alternative program due to shortages in the school district, what are they doing to learn how to be a better teacher? Are they taking classes to get certified?
- How long have you been teaching? If the teacher doesn’t have good credentials and also has not taught long, be concerned.
- What will you teach? Along with reading, in elementary school, a child should get exposure to a variety of subjects. This is evident in high school.
- Are you implementing Common Core? You can’t blame the teacher for this, but you have a right to know.
- How much standardized testing will be administered? How much time will be spent on test preparation? What are the opt-out policies if you don’t want your child taking the test/s?
- If the teacher is not credentialed and is a substitute teacher, ask how long they will be in the position. Children sometimes get stuck with a sub for a lengthy period of time, which is unfair.
- How much online instruction will take place? Is the teacher talking about blended learning? If so, what exactly will that mean for student instruction? How much actual teacher instruction will the student get?
- Check on State Online Certification Site. Most states have a certification list where you can check on the teacher’s name and credentials. This is not a bad thing to do for charter and private schools too.
If you are not satisfied with the answers, check with other parents. If possible, organize and approach the principal. Also, make it known to the PTA, district personnel, and the school board.
Parents need to demand qualified teachers and administrators.
Hopefully, all the teachers in your child’s school will be college graduates in education and appropriately credentialed by the state. If not, drawing attention to the situation through letter writing and speaking out at school boards might help.