NCLB already mandates that every teacher be “Highly Qualified”. The definition, according to the Department of Education:
Highly Qualified Teachers: To be deemed highly qualified, teachers must have: 1) a bachelor’s degree, 2) full state certification or licensure, and 3) prove that they know each subject they teach.
Each state requires these minimum standards, and virtually all also require standardized testing encompassing tests for each discipline a teacher will teach, plus separate tests of general professional standards and skills. All of this is required before a teacher is certified to teach. With the issuance of a teaching certificate, in virtually every state a set of continuing education mandates apply, mandates that must be met in order to continue to teach. Any additional testing layered on these already substantial requirements would simply add much greater costs for no benefit.
No test can achieve what Weingarten wants: perfectly prepared new teachers.
Her test is a red herring. In teaching, as in every other field of human endeavor, only skill and preparation combined with experience — which must be won through actually doing the job over time — can produce competent teachers. Some people will enter the profession with the best intentions, but discover it’s really not for them. Some will have the endowment to be excellent teachers and will shine virtually from their first day in the classroom; others will have varying degrees of lesser success. But no test, particularly no test forced on schools throughout the nation and administered by unions and the federal government, can change human nature and the very nature of how human beings learn and perform any job.
Education unions are the greatest impediment ever devised to true professionalism in teaching. One of the hallmarks of education unionism is ensuring that the worst teachers — even teachers who have committed crimes — cannot be disciplined or fired. As the Fox News article noted, Weingarten’s proposal does not mention or address this indisputable fact. Of what value is an enormously expensive testing program if unfit teachers — whose primary competency is obviously taking tests rather than teaching — can never be fired?
To whatever degree new teachers are unprepared can be addressed — and is addressed by virtually every American school district — by mentoring programs that pair experienced teachers with new teachers. It’s not universally known that no prospective teacher graduates from college without at least a full semester — half a school year — of teaching under the direct supervision of a teacher experienced in teaching new teachers. No test will improve on that experience.
There is no question some new teachers — all of whom are severely limited by being hired from the human race — will not be as ready to teach competently on their first day in the classroom as others. This is true of new plumbers, electricians, scientists, doctors, lawyers, and any other profession. Because human beings are individuals, this will never change, but solid mentoring programs can — and already do — exist. No test ever conceived can accomplish this, or ensure that no poorly qualified people will ever enter the profession. Unions, however, will do their best to ensure they’ll never leave.
This initiative isn’t about teacher quality; it’s about money and power. It’s about federal control and the destruction of federalism. It’s about making education unions the unchallenged gatekeepers of the teaching profession. And above all, it’s an invitation to the kind of corrupt pay-to-play scamming that has long been the foundation of Chicago politics, but writ on a national scale. It’s the ultimate expression of giving the fox the keys to the chicken coop.
Giving unions the ability to determine who is allowed to teach is a necessary — and likely irreversible — first step to universal unionism in American education. Once established, teachers will owe their first allegiance not to their communities, their schools and their students, but to the unions that determine whether they ever enter a classroom and the circumstances under which they remain. Mandatory national curriculums — another initiative currently being pursued by the Obama administration — would be much easier to implement under this scheme. And the best part is the billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars that will be transferred to union coffers to administer this boondoggle, dollars that will in turn be funneled into the campaign funds of progressive politicians with whom the unions will bargain, and the great federal money wheel inexorably grinds on to ensure no democrat will be left behind.