Yesterday I was invited to the Capitol Building in Harrisburg to speak in the rotunda with the Pennsylvania Association of College and Teacher Educators (PAC-TE). Alongside Secretary Rivera, Noe Ortega, Rich Askey and a variety of other education leaders, I spoke about the importance of teacher education programs, the certification process, and the issues with emergency certification and other “fast track” to the classroom programs.
Last year the issuance of emergency certifications in Pennsylvania rose by 96%, while the number of students enrolling in education programs fell by 55%. Why is that? Education is not treated like a career path in many respects; however, it is truly a degree that a person can graduate with and gain an industry credential. When I think back to college, my original passion was history (and social sciences in general). By majoring in history and completing all of the necessities for the Instructional I in social studies, I also graduated with something that made me employable immediately. I had a teaching license. I had a teaching license that I earned, and completed in depth training for. By the time I graduated from college, not only did I have extensive content knowledge, bu I also completed field experience in a religious school, a wealthy public school, an impoverished public school, a charter school, and a massive urban school. I had a sixteen week experience student teaching and had worked with students who had IEPs, GIEPs, needed ESL classes and those who had a variety of disciplinary issues. I was as prepared as I could be thanks to Cabrini University. If we simply issue certifications to people who have a bachelor’s degree, but no experience, what are we giving out young people? We are setting them up to learn from “teachers” who are untrained in so many capacities.
While people who may work in industry prior to entering the classroom have extensive content knowledge, they may not understand how to disseminate information in a way that young people can appropriately learn for their developmental age. Teacher preparation programs train future educators to understand educational and developmental psychology. When someone graduates from a higher education institution and gains a teaching certification in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, they have completed extensive they have the pedagogical knowledge to move forward in the classroom. I worry that handing out emergency certifications and allowing “fast track” to the classroom programs cheapens what we are giving our students.