NCLB Offers Wedge to Bypass Colleges of Ed
Ohanian Comment: So I'll ask once again the
same question I've been asking for the past couple of years: Why are Colleges of
Ed so silent about this assault?
A new internet-based program
that allows underqualified teachers, career changers, and other professionals to
bypass teacher colleges to become "highly qualified" certified teachers made its
debut Aug. 22.
This alternative to traditional teacher-education
programs, called Passport to Teaching, was funded in part by a $5 million
U.S. Department of Education grant in 2001 to create a cheaper, faster way for
schools to meet the Improving Teacher Quality requirements of the No Child Left
Behind Act and place a highly qualified teacher in every classroom by 2005. But
critics of the initiative--including professional teacher-education
associations--say it's a poor substitute for the rigors of traditional
teacher-preparation programs, which often require practice teaching and
mentoring before certification.
Administered by the American Board for
Certification of Teacher Excellence--a group formed by the National Council on
Teacher Quality in partnership with the Education Leaders Council--the program
simply requires applicants to hold a bachelor's degree, complete a background
check, pass two computer-based tests, and pay a $500 fee. No coursework or
teaching experience of any kind is required.
"Obviously this is a much
more time- and cost-effective option," said American Board spokeswoman Kimberly
Tulp. "It's taking advantage of technology and taking advantage of those who are
interested in becoming teachers but don't want to go to a teacher college."
Applicants must pass two tests. The first, the Professional Teaching
Knowledge exam, measures the applicant's knowledge of classroom management,
student assessment, instructional strategies, communicating and working with
parents, and curriculum planning. The second exam measures the applicant's
mastery of a subject area.
Before taking the tests, applicants can
complete a free, online self-assessment on the American Board's web page to
gauge their ability to pass the exam. This diagnostic tool recommends web-based
and print materials in the applicants' weak areas to help them prepare for the
The examinations, which are not conducted online but on a
computer at a regional testing center, are held four times per year. The first
session starts Aug. 22 and ends Oct. 4. Only two exams are available during the
first testing period: the Professional Teaching Knowledge exam and elementary
education. Exams for middle and high school math are expected this winter.
The essay-response portions of the exams are graded by Vantage Learning
and its computer-based IntelliMetric scoring engine, which uses artificial
intelligence combined with human input to score long-answer questions.
Passport to Teaching targets people who are interested in becoming
teachers but don't want to take the time and incur the expense of completing a
traditional teacher-education program. These include recent college graduates,
working teachers who are not certified to teach in their subject area, and
persons changing careers.
The program appeals to Janet Armbruster, an
employment coordinator at Dannon University in Erie, Pa., who always wanted to
be an elementary school teacher. Back in 1975, she graduated with a teaching
certificate for secondary English but quickly realized high school teaching
wasn't for her.
Rather than go back to school for three years and pay
$60,000 in tuition costs to get her elementary certificate, Armbruster gave up
on teaching altogether. "It was such an incredible hurdle to get my teaching
certificate," she said.
So far, only Pennsylvania recognizes the
American Board certification, but 12 more states are expected to approve it this
year. The American Board hopes to have 25 states on board by 2004.
Armbruster isn't worried that the program doesn't include teaching
practice or other activities common to other teacher certification programs,
because she already has some teaching experience. "I may be discriminated
against because I don't have practice teaching elementary education, but I do
have experience teaching," she said.
But some education advocates are
concerned about the rigors--or purported lack thereof--required by the Passport
to Teaching program.
"This effort undermines the hard work that the
teaching profession has undertaken during the past two decades to strengthen
preparation, licensing, and certification," said Arthur E. Wise, president of
the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, in a statement.
"This is not how states certify people to practice medicine, law, psychology,
dentistry, and other professions."
He warned, "Placing individuals in
hard-to-staff schools is a prescription for increasing the achievement gap and
leaving many children behind."
Other groups also oppose the Passport to
In June, the House Education Committee launched an
investigation of apparent attempts to sabotage the program. The American Board
said education organizations, including the American Association of Colleges for
Teacher Education (AACTE), spearheaded an initiative to discredit and derail the
According to published news reports, the American
Board accused AACTE of stealing and distributing test questions. Reportedly,
ACCTE President and CEO David G. Imig admitted to requesting a copy of the test
questions and sharing them with his colleagues for review, but he said he made
only one test copy.
"These organizations oppose the tests being
developed by the American Board because, once completed and implemented, they
will provide a new path to teacher certification," said Lisa Graham Keegan, CEO
of Education Leaders Council and board member of the American Board. "This could
ultimately impact the revenues and prestige position currently enjoyed by those
involved in organizations such as AACTE."
Passport to Teaching
American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence
National Council for Accreditation of
American Association of
Colleges for Teacher Education
Alernate teacher certification program debuts online
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES