There is no single, national standard for teacher certification, although the federal government does ask states to meet certain criteria to be eligible for federal funding.
The proposal by a major teachers union to impose tougher requirements on its own members might signal a shift in tone for a profession facing heightened scrutiny. In recent years, unions such as the AFT have resisted calls to end tenure and to tie teachers’ evaluations to their students’ test scores.
But by embracing more rigorous certification standards, the union hopes to raise the status of the teaching profession, which could reap future rewards when it comes to compensation and other benefits. In its report, AFT drew comparisons between teaching and other professions that require advanced professional training, such as medicine and law.
The proposal also calls for making entrance into teacher education programs more competitive. Candidates should be required to have a minimum 3.0 cumulative grade point average, the AFT said, in addition to formal interviews and 10 hours of field experience.
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“If you impose that kind of restriction, that means you’re signaling to society at large that not everybody can be a teacher. You’re saying it’s hard to get in. It’s hard to be good,” said Arthur McKee of the National Council on Teacher Quality, which supports the proposal.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, too, commended the proposal, describing it as part of a broader push to raise the bar for teachers and enable schools to predict a teacher’s potential for success in the classroom.
“Too many new teachers enter our schools feeling unprepared. We shouldn’t tolerate that in a profession so important to our country’s future,” he said in a statement.
The union’s executive council will consider whether to approve the report at a February meeting. Other teachers unions, including the National Education Association, have yet to weigh in on the proposal as of press time.