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October 14, 2004


Christopher Grove

"No Child Left Behind defines the qualifications needed by teachers and paraprofessionals who work on any facet of classroom instruction. It requires that states develop plans to achieve the goal that all teachers of core academic subjects be highly qualified by the end of the 2005-06 school year"
Does this meant that you can teach in the US without teaching qualifications? And why is this target only applied to "core" subjects? And who defines wht's a "core" subject?
I'm not that well placed to comment, not knowing your system, but I find the idea that someone can teach without teaching qualifications shocking... Teaching is a career in it's own right, with specific needs in order to succeed in it.
I agree that some thought should be put into whether the existing methods are best adapted to current (new) needs. That said, in the UK there were too many changes made, too often with the education system; at least by keeping the old methods for the moment you avoid all of the problems that come with too many changes done too quickly. It would probably be a good thing to look at those methods in parallel though.


Hi Jon,

I am interested in seeing the certification program come into effect. For one, as I recall repeatedly hearing in university, a degree in education requires little effort. I remember talking with students in the program who complained about the number of people who have no business teaching, obtaining a degree to teach. It was a bit of a joke, in fact.

Times may have changed a bit (that was over a decade ago), but I continue to speak with teachers and hear the same complaints - there's a lack of intelligent, committed teachers out there, willing to go the extra mile for the students.

I recall quite a few of my teachers through public school and marvel that I learned anything at all. They were only as involved as they were forced to be - some of them, frankly, were about as smart as a stump. Of course, the exceptions to the rule were there, and fortunately, they made up for the lax educators. Still, I find it vexing that the bar could be set so low for those people responsible for educating our youth.

Do I believe it will solve inner-city and poor rural community school districts' problems? No. Unfortunately, these schools' problems are so enmeshed with the struggles of poverty, it will take more than funding for education to fix. (A wonderful source of information on this is Ruby Payne's book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty - http://ahaprocess.com/ )

I believe the certification is just a step, not the solution - and like you, I believe that we need to understand the kids we're teaching in order to make a significant impact. The above book covers a lot of that.


Hi Jon,
I enjoy your blog and check in on it from time to time. This ones got me going.

First I confess to being Canadian and a father of home schooled children. The idea of compulsory certification makes me look over my shoulder, so forgive me if I sound shrill. I think more emphasis on the right papers will have the opposite effect to the one intended. I don’t believe that more paper from professional educators are what our children need. I think they need adult mentorship.

Some kids would be much better off learning to mind a store, follow their interests in the library and learn science with Uncle Peter. We think that the education system brings up well adjusted individuals - hell we all went! - and kids will get supersmart learning from teachers with more training. In practice, the peer group has more of an impact on the child’s development than we realize, and a detrimental one. The adults are outnumbered and the children bond with each other in the absence of an attentive adult.

Also - certification or not, schools are set up to inculcate a heuristic system that we often don’t realize, the most obvious feature being the inculcation of compliance!

If we can give a child the right home learning environment we will see them grow up very well adjusted. Why do we farm out our kids and then expect that the correct constraints on the systemm will give the correct effect? Certification be damned. Education is not about learning the right things from the rigth professionals with the right certificates; it is about proper psychic development through mentoring and love. People have become so paranoid about the pace of change that they have forgotten the true fundamentals.

Jon Strande

Chris, teachers must have a college degree to teach. The certification is above and beyond that. As for who defines the "core" subjects, I'm not sure. Probably Math & Science are the two biggies... as they mention.

Aleah, wow, we actually disagree about something - I don't think the cerfitification is a good idea. It is just another barrier to keep "interested" people from teaching. I don't want someone who can pass a test to being teaching children, I want someone who wants to teach children teaching them. Hmmm... I guess we actually don't really disagree on that, do we? ;-) Thank you for the book tip - I'll check it out upon my return.

John, hey there! You raise some great points... truly. Two lines really resonate with me:

1.) Some kids would be much better off learning to mind a store, follow their interests in the library and learn science with Uncle Peter.

2.) People have become so paranoid about the pace of change that they have forgotten the true fundamentals.

I couldn't agree more. Life has changed very little in thousands of years. Sure, we have some new things in our lives, but the basics haven't changed very much. Being able to problem solve, interact with other people, and having some notion of critical thinking are three skills that every person should have.

Phil G

Great article. Let me first start by saying, I went to school to teach for 3.5 years in an urban university where the local school system is atrocious, to put things mildly, where many unqualified people ended up getting certified to teach our children, and most fled the city as soon as they got their degrees to teach in the 'burbs because they were afraid of the challenges they'd have to face in the city schools. Know that the suburbs are always close to the city, and that they pay more initially and have far more support for younger teachers, and sprinkle in a teachers' union REALLY determines what goes on in the school, what do you get? You get a recipe for absolute disaster.

How do you fix this system and these problems? For starters, eliminate the teachers' union nation-wide to stop protecting teachers who've been teaching the same curriculum for the past 30 years, and allow school districts to hire and fire people as they please. I could spend HOURS talking about why we should get rid of the union, but I won't.

Make the public schools operate less like a non-profit and more like a business, where there groups of office buildings, owned by someone established in the community who wants to keep the local community vibrant and relevant (think a superintendent of schools currently), with each building run by a building lessor (think a principal, but base her/his pay on performance) teachers can rent a chair (like a barber shop) and if they are good teachers (based on how kids do on national tests, certification, number of kids that go on to college and major in the subject the teacher taught, how many students want to continue to take classes with them, and other factors the federal government helps set up, with an advisory council of former and current educators), the amount of pay they can receive is much less restricted and is much higher than currently. Teachers who don't measure up don't get enough students to sign up for next year's classes, and have to rent a room somewhere else.

Radical ideas? Absolutely, but the current system needs to be completely overhauled, at least in the urban areas.

Thinking about fixing the rural setting, where there aren't enough kids to have any real competition, makes my head hurt and is a far bigger challenge in my mind. I don't know is fixable without moving everyone to the city. Local business owners and relatively wealthy residents really run the schools in the rural areas, and they make sure their kids get more education than anyone else by putting pressure on the school districts to give their children the best opportunities in classes and in extra-curriculars so their kids can go off to college, get their degree and either come home to run the family business, come home to open their own new business, or go off somewhere else to be successful, leaving the poorer children behind to not go to college and stay behind after high school to work at the local business for these people, to get stuck at the local factory for what they think is just a few years until they saved enough money for college (never happens), or worse yet, to care for their parents who've put all their blood, sweat and tears into a town that doesn't give a crap about them and they got injured in an accident at the local company and can no longer care for themselves.

Either way, there is a disparity in the rural schools between the haves and the have nots, and one I don't know can be fixed unless there is a city close enough by that one can find a good job at and get away, or join the military, use the benefits to get a degree and buy a house, but whatever way you look at it getting away and not going back to where you came from.

Jon Strande


Thank you for the great comment!!! Why don't you tell us how you really feel?? ;-)

Seriously, I couldn't agree with you more that getting rid of Unions is one of the smartest things that the schools could do. I recall from my project that every little turn, the project manager from the school system would whishper in my ear: we can't do anything here, this job is protected by the union... urgh! How on earth do you effect change when you can't change even the smallest detail of someones job description? With teachers its worse - they can strike, leaving no one to teach... well, in some cases that wouldn't be so bad, huh? ;-)

Yeah, radical ideas are needed. I'm not sold on privatization to be honest with you, but I might be wrong... the current system doesn't seem to be doing the job, huh?

I think change should start with the identification that we are living in different times - and a new education plan is needed. The current curriculum, as you mention, has been around for many years. The fact is that the structure of the school system came about to produce two types of people:

1.) Factory Managers
2.) Factory Workers

That is not the world we are living in any more... so, we need to start by taking a good hard look at what we are teaching and how we are teaching it.



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