Jersey Jazzman: Do Charter Teachers Need to be Certified or Pass State Exams?

Jersey Jazzman explores the flap in New York about certification–or lack thereof–for charter school teachers.

The charter industry says, if we get the test scores, we don’t need teachers with masters’ degrees or certification…

JJ says:

Yes, “better results” are all that matters, no matter how practically small they may be. And no matter how you got them: if your gains are from student attrition, or narrowing the curriculum, or onerous disciplinary policies that drive out students, or resource advantages, that’s just fine with SUNY (State University of New York). You should be able to bypass the teacher certification rules the loser NYC district schools have to follow, so long as those test scores stay high…

We’ve been through this over on my side of the Hudson. The charters, usually affiliated with larger networks, believe that their “successes” entitle them to train their own staffs outside of standard regulation by the state. The theory seems to be that traditional university-based teacher training programs are too… well, traditional.

…they shouldn’t have to subject their teachers to all that boring research and theory and intellectual inquisitiveness and whatnot. Just bring these prospective teachers into the charters, let them soak up the awesomeness, and then put them into schools…

Oh, sorry: charter schools. The data is thin, but that’s what appears to be happening with the Relay “Graduate” “School” of “Education,” the premier charter teacher training center in the Northeast. Despite some unsourced claims from Relay’s leadership, and some professional development contracts with districts like Newark and Camden and Philadelphia, it’s clear that Relay has become more a staffing firm for a particular group of charter chains than a broad provider of teacher training.

Relay is a phony “graduate” school. There is no faculty. No library. No research. Just charter teachers teaching other charter teachers. How to be awesome.

As Bruce Baker and Gary Miron have pointed out, this leads to a “company store” style of professional development, where charter teachers essentially pay back a part of their wages to their employers (or their employers’ partners) in exchange for the right to continuing working at their jobs — usually for lower wages than their public district school counterparts.

As many have noted, Relay is steeped in the “no excuses” style of pedagogy, exemplified by Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion. I contend it’s a type of teaching that would never, ever be accepted out in the leafy ‘burbs; one that makes the teacher the focus of the classroom instead of the student. This is yet another instance of the charter industry selling its schools as an antidote to race and class inequality, even as it imposes a different kind of schooling on urban students of color than the schooling found in affluent, majority-white suburban schools.

Relay has been at it for a few years now, but I’ve yet to see any empirical evidence that they’re doing any better than the university-based teacher training programs. Relay is placing most of its teachers into a separate group of schools, and most (if not all) of the teachers in those schools are being trained by Relay. Both Relay and its client charter schools make what Angus Shiva Mungal calls a “parallel education structure.” We’re not likely to see many Relay grads move into jobs currently held by traditionally trained teachers, which is what we would need to properly compare the two training paths.

Still, Relay has had to at least adhere to the form of university-based teacher training. Their “professors” may be inexperienced and utterly lacking in scholarly qualifications, but their graduates do get an actual teaching certification, based on a “graduate” “school” teacher training program. The SUNY proposal, however, does away with even the pretense of college-level training.

TFA and Relay will destroy the teaching profession if they can manage it.

They are a destructive force in education.

Speak out against this retrograde policy.

from novemoore


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