The Times story about for-profit teacher alternative certification programs in Texas is sparking some conversation, which is good, it’s a trend worth paying attention to and evaluating. But it’s amazing that in 2011 the article is chocked full of “some question” and “some believe” statements. And this:
Principals offer mixed reviews of teachers hired from for-profit programs. Most say those teachers succeed in the classroom at the same rate as traditionally certified ones, but others report that they seem less prepared.
This is basically an empirical question. And its one that Texas could answer. States like LA and TN are moving in this direction now.
Readers are also left to figure out on their own a key piece of context – teacher preparation programs vary widely in quality today. I’m skeptical of some of the for-profit outfits (and many alternative routes overall) but when people complain that some of the for-profit teacher preparation programs take anyone, it might be a good time to signal to readers that this problem exists across the board with many programs and what the state of quality is.
More generally, in my view proposals to regulate these programs by mandating various inputs and trying to make them look more like traditional programs is the wrong the way to go. We have an input-driven system now and it creates a culture driven by compliance and reporting rather than performance. It’s also a cumbersome system that often obscures more than it reveals. Instead, why not require a high-level of accountability based on how those who complete a program perform in the classroom? That’s a metric that can be applied across the board to traditional programs, non-profits and for-profits alike. And only then can we get away from a ‘he said, she said’ way of thinking about these questions.