WASHINGTON (AP) — Schoolteachers should have to pass a stringent exam — much
like the bar exam for lawyers — before being allowed to enter the
profession, one of the nation’s largest teachers unions said Monday.
The American Federation of Teachers called for a tough new written test to
be complimented by stricter entrance requirements for teacher training
programs, such as a minimum grade point average.
“It’s time to do away with a common rite of passage into the teaching
profession, whereby newly minted teachers are tossed the keys to their
classrooms, expected to figure things out, and left to see if they and their
students sink or swim,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten, calling that
system unfair to students and teachers alike.
The proposal, released Monday as part of a broader report on elevating the
teaching profession, calls for the National Board for Professional Teaching
Standards to take the lead in developing a new test. The nonprofit group
currently administers the National Board Certification program, an advanced,
voluntary teaching credential that goes beyond state standards.
There is no single, national standard for teacher certification, although
the federal government does ask states to meet certain criteria to be
eligible for federal funding.
The proposal by a major teachers union to impose tougher requirements on its
own members may signal a shift in tone for a profession facing heightened
scrutiny. In recent years, unions such as AFT have resisted calls to end
tenure and to tie teachers’ evaluations to their students’ test scores.
But by embracing more rigorous certification standards, the union hopes to
raise the status of the teaching profession, which could reap future rewards
when it comes to compensation and other benefits. In its report, AFT drew
comparisons between teaching and other professions that require advanced
professional training, such as medicine and law.
The proposal also calls for making entrance into teacher education programs
more competitive. Candidates should be required to have a minimum 3.0
cumulative grade point average, the AFT said, in addition to formal
interviews and 10 hours of field experience.
“If you impose that kind of restriction, that means you’re signaling to
society at large that not everybody can be a teacher. You’re saying it’s
hard to get in. It’s hard to be good,” said Arthur McKee of the National
Council on Teacher Quality, which supports the proposal.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, too, commended the proposal, describing it
as part of a broader push to raise the bar for teachers and enable schools
to predict a teacher’s potential for success in the classroom.
“Too many new teachers enter our schools feeling unprepared. We shouldn’t
tolerate that in a profession so important to our country’s future,” he said
in a statement.
The union’s executive council will consider whether to approve the report at
a February meeting. Other teachers unions including the National Education
Association have yet to weigh in on the proposal.