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Educators debate about teacher certification requirements

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2014 10:20 AM

The Common Core State Standards may be fully implemented, but many schools and teachers are still adjusting to the new benchmarks. This period of reworking education tactics can be difficult for some teachers, drawing attention to how prepared educators are. In theory, a trained teacher has some experience with including benchmarks in lessons and formulating effective strategies. However, some educators across the country have expressed the opinion that alternative teacher certifications can better prepare teachers for the challenges presented by the Common Core and otherwise.

Content vs. training
Teachers have a difficult job, as they must balance their ability to educate and their acquisition of content knowledge - a math teacher has to know math well and be able to help others learn it. For this reason, many educators feel that all teachers must earn their certification through an education program. Traditionally, would-be teachers attended a four-year university to get a degree in teaching with a focus in a certain subject. They may also have earned a master's degree. More recently, teachers are taking an alternative route to certification. These people are generally experts in a particular field who want to share their knowledge in a school setting. They attend a school to earn a certification to teach in their state.

Opponents of alternative certification note that these programs don't arm people with enough strategies to teach well (i.e., too much content knowledge and not enough training). Proponents are of the somewhat inverse opinion - they believe subject matter expertise outweighs training in value.

The case in Indiana
Alternative certification is a hot topic right now, in part because Indiana just approved a new license, called a "career specialist" license, for teaching. As long as a person has a bachelor's degree and a B average or above, and passes a content test, he or she can teach middle or high school in that subject. Legislators believe this program will help bring more subject experts into Indiana classrooms. 

"I want to empower local schools to make that decision … who they want as a teacher," David Freitas, board member of the Indiana State Board of Education and supporter of the license, told State Impact.

Freitas emphasized that just because a person earns a license, it doesn't mean he or she will be hired as a teacher. That decision is ultimately up to schools. However, according to NPR, that fact alone isn't enough for many opponents, who feel teaching standards should be more rigorous.