Originally intended to assure that teachers were competent professionals, the certification process has decayed into a system which more often than not assures just the opposite.
As a member of a large Union District school board, I am frequently asked to participate in teacher candidate interviews. In this process, I have the privilege of examining the candidates' resumes and college transcripts in detail. And almost without exception, they are appalling. As a scientist, I am most likely to interview prospective math and science teachers. The most alarming trend I am seeing is science and math candidates who chose the profession of teaching because they originally failed to succeed in a math or science major.
The latest studies indicate that the young men and women currently in college pursuing a diploma in "education" have the lowest SAT scores of any major field of study. And, the average teacher will graduate in the bottom 25% of his or her class.
The emphasis on process rather than content is producing a teacher cadre so woefully deficient in content knowledge they are literally incapable of answering student questions beyond the scope of the current class being taught, and often are presenting material which is blatantly inaccurate, particularly in the physical sciences.
Yet teacher "certification" continues to favor those with "non-content" education degrees, thus assuring that the brightest and best will never aspire to become teachers. Under today's standards, Leonardo DaVinci could not teach art, Albert Einstein could not teach physics, and Henry Kissinger could not teach government in America's public schools.
What is needed is a fast-track process of certifying true professionals with content degrees in math and science without subjecting them to "peer review" by a group of educators who arguably don't understand 1/10 of the essential subject material themselves. The current peer review process is akin to having a group of nurses' aides passing judgment on those attempting to become licensed MD's.
We have turned the education of our children over to a labor union. What would have happened if we had turned the space program over to the teamsters? Would we have ever sent a man to the moon and returned him safely? Would we have ever even gotten off the ground?
I doubt it.
The author of this article serves on a Vermont school board, holds a graduate degree, and is a member of the National Physics Honor Society and the National Mathematics Honor Fraternity. S/he is NOT, however, qualified to teach in Vermont public schools
Address correspondence to the author to "thoughts" via Libby Sternberg