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(De)Certification
By David W. Kirkpatrick (June 26, 2009)
Senior Education Fellow
U.S. Freedom Foundation www.freedomfoundation.us

 
         Despite the lack of evidence that requiring public school educators to be certified results in qualified staff, the idea of decertifying them has not won the approval of the establishment, including teacher unions.  As might be suspected, college and university schools of education oppose such a move since they would undoubtedly face a lessened need for their services.
 
     On the other hand, school board members generally approve what, to them, would be an acceptable form of deregulation. This is one of the reasons to maintain certification requirements unless they were replaced with some effective means to insure boards would hire qualified teachers and not relatives, friends, and other forms of political favoritism which boards already do too often if they can.
 
         Opponents of eliminating or seriously increasing the flexibility of certification qualifications like to speak rhetorically about certification and quality education as if they are interchangeable terms.  They are not!  In too many instances they seem not to even be related.  It can also be argued that administrators need not be educators.
 
         After all, hospital administrators need not be doctors..  Court administrators need not be lawyers.  They are what they need to be: administrators.
 
         Even in the field of education, college administrators do not have to be certified, or even have been a faculty member.  While many or most do come from the professorial ranks, given the collegial system of governance they have neither the authority nor the expectation of being the educational leader for all the fields contained within their institutions.  And, perhaps the ultimate example of inconsistency, the regular faculty members themselves do not have to be certified, including the faculty of the education department who prepare their student teachers to become certified so they can teach in public schools, with the emphasis on "public."  Nor do teachers in nonpublic and religious schools normally have to be certified.
 
         It can even be argued that some problems of the public schools have been caused by certification requirements.
 
         It is often said that a school superintendent should be the educational leader of the district, or that principals should be the educational leaders of their school.  Yet how can one person be an expert in math, English, science, history, physical education, guidance counseling, foreign languages, and on and on?
 
         When I was a public high school history teacher my principal was a former chemistry teacher.  As required he came into my classroom on one occasion and later said to me that what I was doing seemed to be excellent even though he had no knowledge of my subject matter.  To which I responded that if he didn't understand what I was doing, imagine the reverse, that I, with a background in history, was his supervisor and was observing him conducting a laboratory class.  The best I might do is recognize that nothing was blown up.  And this despite the fact that at the time I was a high school student I wanted to be a chemist.
 
         In other words, if public school administrators were primarily administrators, as is common in other fields, there would be no need for either the assumption or pretense of universal expertise -a human impossibility.
 
         No other field has as many certification specialties as public education.  The growing nitpicking in this area may be a contributing factor explaining why, as Raymond English has said "Since World War II, attempts at improving  public education have produced more negative than positive results."
 
          The state of Michigan years ago amended its laws and regulations to decertify school administrators. There is only one reason why it hasn't been done more generally - political opposition from the educational establishment.  The reason for this?   Money.
 
         Public education not only requires certification but endless variations of it so teachers, for example, not only have to be certified but have separate certifications for various grade levels, subject content, etc.
 
         Why?  Because educators themselves have sought to create, and maintain, these variations.
 
         Why?: Because of the faculty time and expense to certify and that of students to become certified justifies more jobs and higher salaries..
 
         Even if there is no research confirming that certification is necessary and effective.
 
         Which it isn't.

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Copyright 2009 David W. Kirkpatrick
108 Highland Court,
Douglassville, Pennsylvania 19518-9240
Phone: (610) 689-0633

E-mail (tchrwrtr@aol.com)

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