A Modest Proposal
By Frederick M. Hess
School systems across the nation are struggling to find competent teachers, and projections suggest that matters will only get worse in the coming decade. Why, then, do state licensure systems erect barriers in the path of potential applicants?
The bottom line is that our current system of licensure rests on three assumptions, each of which is fundamentally flawed. Certification does not ensure mastery of essential skills or knowledge. It does little to weed out unsuitable applicants. And it is an unconvincing and ineffective way to bolster popular respect for teachers or teaching.
Current certification dissuades potentially effective teachers. Energetic, talented individuals will have many attractive alternatives and may be the least willing to endure the hoops and hurdles of certification.
Moreover, the either/or nature of certification, and the security it conveys, weakens the incentives for either teachers or providers to ensure the quality of professional development.
Is there some way to address these problems, without throwing classrooms open to the dangerous or the incompetent? Happily, there is. In fact, larger trends make this a moment of high promise for reform.
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