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Ducey signals signing teacher certification legislation

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Gov. Doug Ducey is defending controversial legislation he sought – and is expected to sign -which would allow more people without formal teacher training to lead a public school classroom.

Existing laws already allow people who have expertise in science, technology, engineering or math to teach. SB 1042 would open it up to anyone who has “expertise in a content area or subject matter.”

More significant, it exempts the person from having to take a test of professional proficiency, leaving much of the decision on who is qualified up to local school superintendents rather than the state Department of Education. It is that provision that has upset foes who have said simply being knowledgeable in an academic area does not mean an ability to actually teach.

“We have a teacher shortage in the state of Arizona,” Ducey said. “We’ve got some very high qualified, educated people in our community that have expressed interest in teaching.”

But Ducey sidestepped a question of whether he, as an Arizona State University graduate, is qualified to teach a third grade class.

“This isn’t about me or what I’m qualified to do,” Ducey said. “I want to help bring the best qualified people, more of the best possible people into our classrooms.”

His comments came just hours after the state House gave final approval to the legislation on a 33-22 margin. With Senate approval a day earlier, SB 1042 is now on Ducey’s desk.

Among the provisions, school superintendents would be able to create what amounts to their own certification process, subject only to an avowal that person “has made satisfactory progress and achievement with students.”

Ducey said that makes sense, given the need for more teachers, to leave the decisions to local officials. He said that is already the case at charter schools, which are public schools that can be run as for-profit or non-profit operations.

“They’re able to choose teachers and hire teachers whether they have the traditional training or not,” the governor said. “I think it’s good policy.”

If Ducey signs the measure it will be over the objections of fellow Republican Diane Douglas, the state superintendent of public instruction.

“In my opinion, lowering the standards for new teachers is not the way to correct the problem,” she said in a prepared statement earlier this week.

Douglas said there already are “currently a variety of ways teachers can make their way into the classroom.” And she said there’s nothing wrong with looking for ways to streamline the process.

“However, those programs should ensure that teacher candidates are prepared to manage a classroom, deliver instruction, and have mastered their subject area,” Douglas said.

And Douglas said the focus should be to increase teacher pay “to help retain and attract the best candidates.”

That stance was echoed during Wednesday’s House vote by Rep. Kirsten Engel, D-Tucson. She cited 2014 data which said there were 95,000 Arizonans who were certified to teach but just 52,000 in the classroom.

“So there are thousands, tens of thousands of teachers that have certification, that want to be teachers, that went to school, that learned how to teach a classroom, that learned how to interact with our students, and just are not teaching because we make it an impossible job,” Engel said. She said that’s not just about pay but other monetary issues like having overcrowded classrooms.

Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, who said she just completed a teacher education program, said during Wednesday’s vote she’s not convinced that training is the best or only way to get qualified people into the classroom.

“I didn’t have to take any child psychology classes or any child development classes,” she said. And Udall, who said her emphasis is on teaching math, did not take a single course on teaching that subject.

“I took about seven on teaching literacy,” she said.

Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, said those pushing to open classrooms to those without teacher training on the basis of a shortage are missing the point of why that is occurring.

She said much of the problem could be resolved by paying teachers more, pointing to data from the National Education Association putting Arizona salaries at or near the bottom of the entire nation.

In fact, Blanc said, when inflation is taken into account Arizona teachers are being paid 14 percent less now than they were in 2001.

And until that’s resolved, Blanc said opening the doors to others with professional knowledge in special areas won’t solve the problem.

8 comments

  1. We don’t have enough teachers. “Free market” ideology says: Then we should pay them more! This plan is not to help students. It’s to lower the bar so that education for the masses dumbs down a bit, making them less threatening to the upper class. It’s partially that they don’t want to pay for educating your children, but also because they don’t want your children to be educated enough to challenge them. After we started educating “everybody”, the masses started complaining and voting, and things changed: we had better labor, health, and environmental laws. These laws are bothersome to the upper class. Add to that there are too darn many “minorities” out there, so one solution is to not educate them.

  2. The industry professional that may fit Ducey’s theory of a “qualified expert” in a field will not teach in a classroom at the salary levels “certified” professionals are earning at current salary schedules. The problem is not a scarcity of qualified individuals to teach because there are plenty of those people. The problem is the ridiculous salary AZ expects to pay for a person who has invested, trained, tested and interned to become a qualified teacher. And can I comment about the lack of respect for someone who has earned a Bachelor Degree(s), gone on to earn a Master’s Degree(s), passed national testing, pursues on-going education, professional associations and specialty endorsements, all the while districts seek ways to reduce salary benefits and extra-curricular stipends because of the lack of funding from our state legislators, who continually degrade educators by not acting in the best interests of students and educators who are attacked for not achieving the highest rankings in achievement!!! It is no wonder qualified people are leaving education. And you want to try and convince an industry professional to enter the field of education by streamlining certification???? Good luck with that!!!!

  3. If Arizona can’t attract and retain folks who underwent years of teacher training in an effort to cultivate their passion, then how will it attract and retain Joe from Accounting who has zero commitment to public education other than the passing thought, “I’m kind of sick of my current job. I bet I could teach!”? Even the very few who ARE successful in this scenario will be driven out quickly by what drives out so many excellent, qualified teachers every year: the terrible pay and unreasonable workloads. (I suppose the upside is that when Joe returns to the world of accounting in a year–or less–he’ll have a newfound appreciation for his niche in life.) The solution? Pay teachers market value and improve their working conditions.

  4. I know from vast experience that a subject matter expert can be a poor teacher. I taught physics at Scottsdale Community College for 10 years. I never had a college course in pedagogy. I would have been a MUCH BETTER teacher if I had taken a Modeling Workshop, which is a college course that combines physics and pedagogy (in the context of physics). Much evidence exists — research and anecdotal — that teaching methods are the MOST important factor in student learning.
    SB 1042 goes in the WRONG DIRECTION, by NOT requiring subject matter experts to take a course in pedagogy in their content area of expertise. I have seen too many poor teachers who are content area experts. They lecture! You don’t learn much by lectures; this is proven — too passive! Subject matter experts should be REQUIRED to demonstrate pedagogical content knowledge: they should know how to teach by interactive engagement, i.e., active learning and focused student discourse with quick feedback by the teacher.

  5. Do these ‘people without formal teacher training’ even have to have a college degree????

  6. Pretty amazing state we live in. Lowly educated, ignorant people who think they are quaiified to speak on advanced topics of educated folks. Backseat professional central.

  7. You want to pay teachers more. So where are we going to get more money? Raise taxes on the property owners who are already paying exorbitant tax bills. We have a lot of renters and low income workers in Arizona. How about a sales tax instead of just property taxes. Teachers need to work year around like other public servants ie firemen and policemen, librarians, etc. etc. They only work about 8 1/2 months out of the year. Why should they be paid the same as those who work 12 months? Maybe they are overpaid?! Maybe they should get a second job like many of the rest of us have to do.

  8. Sounds like the United States better build “the wall” north of Arizona.

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