Define educator for America’s schools. It’s critical to nail this down during a teacher shortage and when there are attempts to privatize public schools. We don’t want people with inappropriate or no credentials teaching America’s children and directing their public schools.
Ensuring that teachers and administrators are qualified used to be required. Since NCLB, alternative routes to teaching and educational leadership have blurred the lines and deregulated the profession. Tampering with education credentials lessens their importance. This is a trick of those who want school privatization.
It’s no accident that there’s a teacher shortage at the same time teaching requirements have weakened. With a worsening problem to keep teachers in the classroom, some states relax teaching requirements!
If teacher preparation continues to be diminished by ill-defined teacher preparation and credentialing programs, children will get teachers who don’t understand what they teach, or how children learn.
For example, recent reports referred to Beta O’Rourke’s wife, Amy, as an educator. Mrs. O’Rourke taught kindergarten in Guatemala, but she has a degree in psychology. She is not an educator.
It isn’t clear what kind of credentials O’Rourke needed to teach in Guatemala, or what progress the children made under her instruction. When she returned to El Paso in 2004, she worked with Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe a health clinic, and helped create a K-8 charter school focused on dual-language. She became superintendent of the school without any educational administrative credentials. According to Deutsch29, O’Rourke’s school dropped two grade levels.
Now she is the “Choose to Excel” director at CREEED a foundation designed to raise money for charter schools. She is still not an educator.
This is an insult to career teachers as Associate Professor Mitchell Robinson describes here. When one spends time and money studying their subject and playing by the rules to become an educator, it is difficult to hear anyone without an education degree steal the title.
Amy O’Rourke is not alone. Look at any nonprofit that is about school privatization. Staff will call themselves educators even though they have degrees in everything from political science to law.
The problem isn’t only with teachers. In state education departments and local school districts, we have a glut of administrators in key positions who have minimal education training, usually little experience working with children, who determine school policy. These individuals are groomed to privatize public schools.
Betsy DeVos is a good example. Arne Duncan was another. Neither had experience working with children or university education degrees. Duncan had been superintendent of Chicago’s public schools, but he was just as unqualified for that position. Both have been all about increasing charter schools and creating a privatized educational system.
Public schools used to be stricter about who could teach and run schools.
- Elementary teachers had backgrounds in how to teach subjects like social studies and science, and present meaningful activities for children that age. They were prepared to teach reading.
- Middle and high school teachers understood a chosen subject, had ample number of courses in what they would teach and coursework on how to teach their subject to students.
- Art and music teachers required a background in the arts and how to teach the arts.
- Special education teachers had to know their specialty. Teachers working with children with deafness required special preparation and certification. The same for learning disabilities, autism, developmental disabilities, and students with emotional difficulties.
- Those in educational administration were once teachers who added university coursework in leadership.
Principals I knew used to strictly enforce teaching requirements. You could not teach outside your certification area unless there was an emergency. Now, I have heard of Teach for America novices running special education classrooms. This, of course, happens more in poor schools.
Here’s how teaching credentials have changed to push privatization.
- Charter Schools. Many charter teachers come from Teach for America. It’s not clear how charter school teachers are prepared. Some charter schools are permitted to train their own teachers. What kind of accreditation do they have?
- Teach for America: This group is well-known for destroying the teaching profession, but they’re aren’t alone. Many nonprofits run fast-track teacher preparation programs to create their brand of educator. The New Teacher Project, Teaching Fellows, Relay Graduate School of Education, New Leaders and many others diminish teacher and administrator qualifications in favor of fast-track teaching and leading.
- Private and Parochial Schools. These schools don’t usually require state teaching licenses. They might train their own teachers with unaccredited programs. Tax dollars should not flow to these schools when the public doesn’t see how their teachers are prepared.
- Technology. Replacing teachers with technology and sending children home, or into substandard charter schools without well-prepared teachers is one goal. Most online programs have terrible results but are promoted anyway.
- Education Schools. While fast track programs pop up, university education schools have signed on to corporate preparation programs like edTPA. Check out Fred Klonsky’s description of this program here. Ed. schools have also partnered with fast track teaching programs like Teach for America, Teaching Fellows, and Relay Graduate School. This diminishes their effectiveness. It’s still important to get a university teaching degree, but recognize that, like K-12, higher education faces privatization pressure.
- The NACTE and the CAEP. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NACTE) merged with the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). They’ve also signed on to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which make them questionable.
- Online Schools. Many for-profit schools run “get your degree quick” diploma mills. These programs appeal to those who work or find going to college inconvenient, but it is not clear how well they prepare teachers. Even the government has a questionable online program called ABCTE which advertises “Designed to be fast, flexible and affordable, American Board’s teacher certification program is entirely online and self-paced.” The program has a $1900 enrollment fee.
Calling anyone an educator, means anyone can be an educator, and then no one is a real educator. It threatens how children learn because we don’t know what someone who calls themselves an educator really knows about what they’re teaching.
This concern makes such common sense it’s amazing it needs clarifying.