To the Editor:
After reading the article, “States Relax Teacher Certification Rules to Combat Shortages” (June 28, 2022), I couldn’t help but wonder why we aren’t thinking about the source of the problem. Shouldn’t we be asking why there are shortages or how we can prevent amazing educators from leaving? In response to this, I think many educators would say that our profession lacks the respect it deserves.
If we want teachers to stay, we have to make it a fulfilling job that isn’t bogged down by unnecessary paperwork and a lack of trust. Teachers go through schooling and pass tests to become certified, then are questioned daily about the choices they make for students anyway. Do we want to create teachers who think outside the box to support their diverse learners or do we want robots who will follow instructions?
Lowering the bar, especially in the content area we are going to teach, is a disservice to our students who deserve so much more. Should we make certification tests affordable? Absolutely! But lowering the criteria isn’t going to work.
If anything, we should be holding teachers more accountable for knowing the content— but the accountability must also fall on teacher-preparation programs. I passed all my certification tests and breezed through my education classes. As a brand new elementary school teacher entering a 5th grade classroom my first year, I had no idea how to teach 5th grade math. I spent night after night reteaching myself math skills I should have been an expert in. We should be raising expectations while also helping prospective teachers get there.
Our kids deserve better. We need to hold the career of teaching in higher esteem. Shortages exist because of the working conditions. Let’s improve working conditions and preparation programs before lowering the bar.
Special Education Teacher
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A version of this article appeared in the August 31, 2022 edition of Education Week as Let’s Think About How to Prevent Teacher Shortages