Frederick County has raised salaries in an attempt to attract more teachers into the profession but has ignored a less expensive option for increasing the supply of educators.

Under Maryland law, local school systems are allowed to establish alternative pathways into the profession that expand their candidate pool. Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County have done this. Frederick County needs to follow suit, and could even set the new standard for how to do this well if it chose to.

But first, some background: whether it was the Abell Foundation’s “Teacher Certification Reconsidered: Stumbling Toward Quality“ report from 2001, McKinsey’s “How the world’s best-performing school systems come out on top”, or the dozens upon dozens of reports from other reputable research organizations going back to the 1970s, research on teacher certification has shown for a long time that having traditional or alternative certification has little correlation with student learning.

Not only does the evidence suggest that being a certified teacher has little to nothing to do with teaching ability, requiring certification doesn’t pass the common sense test. A college math professor with decades of teaching experience and a Ph.D. isn’t considered qualified to teach AP Calculus in high school, yet a recent education school graduate with a Bachelor’s degree and only student teaching experience is considered fully qualified. Surely we ought to allow highly qualified, experienced college professors to prepare our high school students for college, wouldn’t you think?

What’s worse, we know that the SAT scores of prospective teachers tend to be below average, and education graduates are disproportionately in the bottom third of college graduates. The purpose of requiring certification is to ensure that only highly educated people with the ability to teach get into public school classrooms, but in reality tends to do the opposite. Unlike other countries such as Finland, which recruit teachers from the top 10% of students, America’s teachers are at best around average. It’s reasonable to expect that those tasked with educating others should be well above average academically.

“The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers”, McKinsey’s report rightly begins. But the unfortunate reality is that there aren’t enough good candidates in the current teacher applicant pool, and most counties in Maryland, including ours, have made the situation worse by requiring prospective teachers to go through teacher certification, which is expensive, time-consuming, and often promotes trendy pedagogical approaches that make teachers less effective in the classroom.

So if the evidence is clear, which it is, why do school systems continue to limit their own applicant pool to the detriment of students? In part it’s out of tradition. “I had to go through certification so everyone else should too.” is a common reaction I’ve heard from teachers. But we shouldn’t continue an ineffective practice just because we’ve done it in the past.

Another common reaction is, “You can’t just pick someone off the street and expect them to become a good teacher. You can’t just let anyone teach.” Of course you can’t do that, and this thinking is really misleading. Even if we eliminated all teacher certification requirements other than degree in the subject area and passing a background check, all candidates would have to go through an interview process and demonstrate competence through their experience. No one is suggesting that schools shouldn’t have standards for who they hire. Education reformers are simply saying that teacher certification is not the right standard to require.

Well-designed alternative certification programs actually raise standards in terms of attracting teaching candidates who have higher academic scores, attended more competitive colleges, and are often career changers with substantial experience in industries outside of education. These programs often attract more diverse candidates as well.

Instead of Frederick County continuing to put all of its teacher recruitment eggs into the higher salary basket, it needs to launch a serious effort to open up its artificial barriers to the profession. Establishing an alternative certification program that will offer career changers a streamlined route into the profession. Such a program should give more weight to candidates’ academic and personal qualities, which research shows more strongly correlate to effective teaching than having a traditional teaching certificate does.

Over 15 years ago, I testified at my first Frederick County Board of Education meeting in support of alternative certification. Since then, the research supporting this idea has only grown, but FCPS’ willingness to consider it has not. For the sake of providing our children with more academically able teachers and a more diverse workforce, let’s hope they’ll finally reconsider.

Tom Neumark was the founding president of the Frederick Classical Charter School and has been involved in education reform for more than 20 years. In 2019, he was selected as a national finalist in the Moonshot For Kids project for his proposal to improve reading instruction.

(66) comments

NewMarketParent

Salary or education/certification are not the only problems here.

We have teaching conditions which seem to steadily getting worse for teachers with many having to pay out of pocket to ensure that students have basics.

We also have a housing crisis specifically for critical functions that make it near impossible to live near where you teach.

We have steadily been cutting social services which force teachers to take on more of that role for students.

We can't keep taking resources away from schools and teachers and keep telling them to suck it up and expect for everything to continue the way it has always been.

mamlukman

One more comment. About 20 years ago I spent a year as a substitute teacher in high schools in Frederick and Loudon counties. At a Frederick h.s. I met a state policeman who had just retired, and we had a little chat. His comment was that being a policeman was a lot easier than being a substitute teacher--he got less grief.

Also, the department head often matters more than the individual teacher. When I went in to teach math at Frederick High, it was entering a different world. You gave the students the assignment, and they immediately started in. It didn't matter who the teacher was. Clearly the dept. head had set a standard. Sadly, no other dept. in any other school was like this.

jth7100

Thanks for answering Piedmont.

Piedmontgardener

Happy to, I like this place when it is an exchange of ideas.

Awteam2021

I’m surprised to hear teachers have a lower SAT or ACT average then most college students. I would be interested in knowing Tom’s source. In my experience that’s not been the case, or at least I’ve found former teachers to be higher performers in the commercial market after leaving their teaching careers.

Quite the opposite, retention has been the problem. Especially with teachers getting older, retiring and graduates having many more economic choices. I advocate certification for teaching. Certifying that one has the skills to teach is very important. But I do like having lecturers with different expertise.

mamlukman

Two seconds on Google, you have an answer.

https://www.businessinsider.com/heres-the-average-sat-score-for-every-college-major-2014-10

A bit out of date, but it's not worth spending more than 2 seconds. They ranked 38 different majors, and the combined SAT scores ranged from a high of 1748 to a low of 1254. Education majors came in at #26 and a score of 1438. Just above military technology.

SAT scores are not the be all and end all, but it does indicate the "best and the brightest" are generally not going into teaching.

Awteam2021

2014? Business Insider? Was the source?

Awteam2021

That dated report was on student’s majors not teachers.

mamlukman

Well yeah....teachers don't take SATs, high school students do. Then you go back at some point and link their majors with their SATs. If you don't like my source, spend another couple seconds on Google...

Awteam2021

All teachers aren’t education majors. Many have bachelor degrees in specialize subjects. So to assume teachers on the average scored below average on their SAT’s would be misleading at best.

public-redux

For those who value honesty and accuracy, you might not be too surprised to learn that Mr. Kline’s 89% number in the comments below appears to be his own invention. Mainly because public school science teachers were not asked in the survey he alluded to if they taught that creation was or wasn’t a possibility.

The survey questions are available at the link below. Look at page 3 of 12 in particular.

https://dataverse.harvard.edu/file.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.7910/DVN/4FBY8O/7Z6ANX&version=1.0

Now it may be that Scientific American did another survey in 2019 of public school science teachers and their approach to biology. If so, I hope Mr. Kline will link to his source. I asked him to do that some days ago when he first tossed out the 89% figure. He did not oblige. Maybe this time.

jsklinelga

Evolution Education in the U.S. Is Getting Better ' Scientific American, As a person commented above, it only took a quick google..

public-redux

Yep, that’s the survey I linked to. It doesn’t say what you said. Care to comment on whether you were mistaken or lying?

jsklinelga

public

Is this the same person that says Dog bless America.? I am not sure what credence people would place on your opinion. People can read for themselves. But you are right on one point. 12% pro yields 88& against not 89%

jsklinelga

public again

Even though I was taught not to chase a snake into the woods or wrestle with the devil for clarification sake for others I will add this. I totally agree that creationism has no place in a science class. Especially within some obscure, pseudo- scientific debate of whether God created the world or the world was created by chance.

"Creationism the belief that the universe and living organisms originate from specific acts of divine creation, as in the biblical account, rather than by natural processes such as evolution."

public-redux

Mr. Kline, Thank you for acknowledging that you lied.

public-redux

And why do you hate dogs so much?

public-redux

You also seem to have an extremely low opinion of your god if you think it is incapable of creating evolution.

Your definition of creationism is incorrect in that it excludes non-biblical accounts of creation. Here, educate yourself:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_creation_myths

Awteam2021

Don’t figure? Maryland ranks among the top three public high school systems in the country.

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/articles/how-states-compare

rshill5

Thank you so much for your excellent commentary. There have been programs of alternative certification in the past. In the 1960's during the cold war, there was concern for science education and alternative certifications were used to get qualified science teachers. My high school chemistry course taught by a chemist and that changed everything for me. I learned so much chemistry from her that I was able to go directly into advanced chemistry courses in college and even placed out of the required chemistry course at Hopkins Medical School. I hope your suggestions will result in others having a life changing experince such as I had.

shiftless88

My chemistry teacher inspired many, many students. Some went on to become scientists, others were just thankful that he could convey complex thoughts in a way that they could understand, even though they did not like science. He was a regular ol' teacher.

jth7100

Just curious Piedmont, what profession was your 20 years experience and what subject (s) did you wish to teach?

Piedmontgardener

Law. I was a Mock Trial advisor for a number of years to one of our high schools. My background is a History/Political Science major - could certainly teach any lower level government/American History Course and ladder up to AP.

shiftless88

Tom seems to neglect the fact that there are two parts to teaching. One is subject matter expertise. The second is the ability to teach. Becoming proficient enough at Calculus to teach an AP class is not that hard. Being able to educate the students is more difficult. College professors are occasionally amazing, but often they are hired because they are math whizzes who can attract grants rather than their ability to teach. Therefore the college freshmen taking the calculus class are expected to nearly learn on their own. Professors often do not relate well to people under 20.

I won't disagree that the certification may not be the right pathway, but just because someone has subject matter expertise does NOT mean we want them teaching 16 year olds. And bringing in someone with 20 years of experience to become a teacher is likely not going to happen much without the salary increase that Tom downplays (you think that would be a salary increase for someone leaving private industry with 20 years experience in a topic like science where the lack of teachers is acute??).

So he has a point; we should look for the top 10% of college grads to become teachers. But we also need to pay them and make sure they know how to actually teach.

mamlukman

Exactly. You need both parts--you need to know your subject, but you also know how to teach high school students. Either one without the other = failure.

As for bringing in mid-career people, you're right. $$$$. I know when I started teaching (STARTED, mind you) h.s. in Ontario in 1975, I was making more than an average asst. professor teaching at a university.

If you want to see where these Canadian differences lead, just check out the PISA scores for the US vs. Canada. Canada's in the top group in all subjects--reading (#2), science, and math. The US is usually struggling in the 30th rank of all subjects. Most reasonable people would perk up and say "Hey, let's take a road trip to Waterloo or Kitchener and see what's going on!" But no....

mamlukman

Two separate comments.

First, I have a B.Ed. from the U. of Toronto. The Ontario system is that you get your BA or BS first, then you go an additional year to get a B.Ed. The additional year includes practice teaching for 6 weeks each in two different subjects, which you have to have a minimum number of credits in. And the 6 weeks are in 2-week segments at 3 different schools. Your teaching certificate is permanent--you don't have to mess around with inservice training, etc. Furthermore, there are 9 steps in each category rather than the 25 steps that are the norm in the US. In other words, to walk away from teaching in the US is cheap--each step (year of experience) is only worth 1-2,000. But in Ontario, each step is worth about $5,000--much harder to walk away from. So less teacher turnover.

Now in about 1990 I tried to get a job in the US. I have a BS, 3 MA's, and all but dissertation on a PhD. I have a total of 340 credits. There was no real problem in getting a h.s. teaching certificate from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, or N. Carolina. Maryland, however, was a different story. My memory is not exact 30 years later, but it was along these lines: the other states said "You need to have 2 years of courses in English literature." No problem. Maryland said (again, I can't remember the exact courses): "You need to have 2 years of courses in English literature. One course must be on "women's literature in 19th c. America"; another must be on "literature of the frontier"; another on "literature of the early 20th c."; etc. In other words, very specific courses. If you lived and were educated at a Maryland university that offered these specific courses specifically for Maryland h.s. teachers, fine. If you got your education out of state, tough luck. This held for a large range of subjects--Maryland's requirements were consistently very detailed. Perhaps this was to eliminate out-of-state competition for teaching, I don't know. But it certainly was effective!

Second subject: A few years ago Hood had a one-night program on teaching math in h.s. It was open to the public, so I went out of curiosity. I believe I was the only non-teacher among about 50 people. The point of the session was to demonstrate the techniques of a new math program, where students were to be taught a) to show all their work and b) to be able to find different methods of finding an answer. Sounds fine in theory. At the end of the session, the presenter gave a sample word problem (you know, the sort of thing where one train leaves Chicago at 50 mph and another train leaves NY at 30 mph, etc.). She gave us 10 minutes to solve the problem. I needed about two seconds. The answer was 42. I looked around....all the teachers were busily making graphs, charts, calculations, God knows what. At the end of 10 minutes, only about half had gotten the right answer--which was, of course, the one that leaped into my head within a second or two: 42. But of course I could never be a math teacher in Maryland.

shiftless88

Of course, it is likely that they were NOT math teachers. But yes, education is inherently a state-regulated activity. That means weird requirements in some states with some level of standards to allow a kid from MD to attend a college in ID without too much extra stuff.

mamlukman

No, they were math teachers. They said so.

I think you missed my point: Maryland was the only state in the area to have specific, often state-specific, requirements. Surrounding states did not.

Awteam2021

You know Maryland out preforms surrounding states. Right? Even Virginia. They have the burden of everything outside of Northern Virginia.

Awteam2021

I think you missed my point. Education isn’t about what you know. How smart you are. But if you can teach others how to learn. Even if they get the wrong answer after multiple tries. That’s the job.

Awteam2021

Were either train going back to Canada? You could teach there. 🤷‍♂️

jsklinelga

aw

It is a shame. For awhile there were some better than usual comments.

Awteam2021

JSK, If shameful, my bad… clearly losing patients. The exercise might not have been as much focused on what the right answer was, but how you would teach to your students - different methods, tools for teaching. Not who’s the smartest teacher in the lesson, who gets the answer the fastest.

Not quite sure Mamlukman knowing an answer first to a question, would some how illustrate he/she would somehow have teaching abilities. Teaching is more then just knowing the answers to questions.

mamlukman

awteam2021 Yes, you have a point. I said as much in another comment--you need both subject knowledge and an ability to teach. But my point with my little story is that the math teachers at that presentation were presumably the ones most interested in learning more about the change in teaching methods. So good for them. The uninterested teachers stayed home and watched TV.

However....as someone who never took math beyond h.s. trigonometry in grade 12, I find it a bit disconcerting that I could calculate the answer almost instantly, while the h.s. math teachers, who all presumably have college course in math, could not. You cannot explain something to students you don't understand yourself.

Hayduke2

Wow, this author continues his assault on public education by calling teachers , in so many words, stupid. FNP, quit giving him a platform for personal attacks.

DickD

Tom's problem is he doesn't want to pay for the state requirements for Charter schools. .Tom needs to find something else to do

Piedmontgardener

This is an excellent LTE. A few years back I looked into what I would have to do to teach in the school system with a professional degree, 20 plus years in the field and 5 as a academic advisor. The system needs to have a lever in for people with skills and interest.

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] PG! Same situation here.

Piedmontgardener

Gabriel, while I have some educational philosophy differences with the author on other matters, he's got this one 100% right. There are many talented people who would like to do this, but won't because of the barrier of a year or two of prerequisites.

Hayduke2

Piedmont - Is that year or two of prerequisites unreasonable? Does having a professional degree mean you should be able to move seemlessly between professions, or are there skill and knowledge differences necessary to do so?

shiftless88

Piedmont; to reflect Hayduke's comment and my other stand-alone comment, just because you have subject matter expertise does NOT qualify you to teach 16 year olds. And that is appropriate. Teaching is a skill of its own. I have a PhD but suck at teaching.

Piedmontgardener

Heyduke and Shiftess - I have hundreds of hours as an academic advisor for our Mock Trial teams in the County. I don't think I need anything to learn how to teach ideas to high school students. Been there, done that.

shiftless88

But the point is, you are an exception. Many professionals have no experience in teaching jr high or high school kids. I am not saying that professionals do NOT have it, I am saying that many don't. What you did sounds great. There should be some sort of "combined experience" that takes your work into account (assuming that there are people who would back you up that you don't suck at it!!).

Hayduke2

Piedmont -,not an answer to the questions I asked....

jth7100

Alternative pathways are being considered as people are less interested in teaching including poor pay being unattractive. What would you pay a Ph.D. mathematician to teach in public schools? Why would they take a pay cut to do it? Where are the enormous numbers of public school graduates who could never continue their education as they were harmed by public schools? Are you or were you ever a public school teacher? What is your educational background? Also, the dog with the bone said, "dude, give it a rest."

fjulia

Perhaps if those like the letter writer and the writer below would stop bashing public education and shilling for private education, we could discuss the truth that most states and school districts try to get by on the cheap when it comes to funding all parts of education. So why would that attract above average people. All the letter writer ever does is complain. Time for him to go. Republish the Jay Matthew's column from the Wash. Post and you would get a fairer and more useful column.

jsklinelga

fjulia

I am not sure bashing public education would be an accurate assessment. But then again maybe you are correct. My grandkids do not attend public schools and I doubt they ever will. They are not alone.

They find many things taught within the schools counter to their beliefs. Scientific America did a survey in 2019 and found 89% of public school science teachers taught that creationism was not a possibility. That is just the tip of the iceberg.

The past elections have focused on the courts as will the elections in 2022 and 2024. Just as a person found it offensive to have to be subjected to prayer in schools others now find it offensive to be subjected to the "progressive agenda" within the schools. Change is coming.

So I am not really bashing the public education system. I just do not think my grandkids and others should be forced to attend and pay for a system that teaches subjects in direct contradiction to their beliefs.

gabrielshorn2013

With all due respect jsk, if any public school taught that creationismwas possible, my kids would be our of that school system in a NY minute. Paleobiology, genetics, the fossil record all show us how life developed and evolved on this Earth, and the discoveries continue to be made supporting "evolutionary theory". There is no ban on prayer in the schools, and a kid can pray at any time or place during the school day. There are even "meet me at the flagpole" sessions. What is not allowed is school-led prayer, and that's fine. Why should a Jewish kid have to sit through a daily Christian prayer? Same for Muslim, Hindu, and Pastafarian kids, and vice-versa.

jsklinelga

gabrielhorn2013

That is your belief. Evolutionary theory does have it's inconsistencies. How could it not? But this section is certainly not the place for that discussion. But you exposed the crux.of the issue. The major division. Maybe we should be equally magnanimous and say if you wanted to express your views on the "theory of evolution" you could meet at the flagpole, Perhaps you could discuss Darwin's views of white supremacy and black inferiority.

There is no doubt of evolutionary processes. How could there not be adaption to your surroundings in a dynamic and changing world? But the underlying guess that everything started with a big bang and evolved from there is simply a theoretical guess or proposition.

The difference between you and I is that I know God is real. And that is my absolute right as an American to have freedom of that belief and not be subjected to mandatory teaching contrary to that belief

Obviously you feel "One nation under God" is an arachidic and .false doctrine. On this we would agree. We are no longer one nation under God.

shiftless88

jsk; again it does not matter if creationism is real or not. It is NOT SCIENCE so it has no business being taught in a science class.

gabrielshorn2013

jsk, you do know that "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 during the "Red Scare" as an anti-communist push. It was not in the original pledge. As for creationism, oh please! You can believe in creation all you want. Think about it in the classroom, with friends, while driving your car, before you go to bed at night. That is your right as an American under the Constitution, and nobody is stopping you. However, as shiftless correctly states, creationism is not science. There is no measurement, data, analysis, modeling, or theory development as there has been with all of the sciences that feed the theory of evolution. You do commit one common mistake in the use of the word "theory", as if it hasn't been strongly supported. Gravity is still a "theory", but we haven't left one up there yet. Eventually everything seeks to have its potential energy to be zero. As for creation, there are only old stories and myths that have survived for millennia. Read some of Joseph Campbell's work, and you will see a remarkably similar thread throughout many civilizations, many of which are not Christian. As for the Big Bang Theory, who knows, maybe that could be your evidence for creation. But Adam and Eve? No.

https://www.ushistory.org/documents/pledge.htm

public-redux

gabe, Logic isn’t going to be useful here. It’s turtles all the way down.

shiftless88

jsk; Creationism IS NOT SCIENCE so of course it would not be taught in science class. What part of that do you not understand?

jsklinelga

Shiftless

I found the comments today to be much better than usual. You are absolutely correct. Creationism is not science and to teach that it is not possible has absolutely no place in a science class. To teach theoretical science as fact has no place in the class either..

shiftless88

jsk; it IS science. It follows from the scientific method. I am guessing you do not know much about evolution, probably because you went to the school where your grandkids do.

shiftless88

So, jsk, if you understand that Creationism is not science then why do you bring it up relative to science teachers?

jsklinelga

"What’s worse, we know that the SAT scores of prospective teachers tend to be below average, and education graduates are disproportionately in the bottom third of college graduates."

Is this true?

Public education is increasingly under attack. More and more people are looking for alternative avenues for their children's education. One barrier is the lack of funding provided for parents seeking an alternative path. Once that barrier is eliminated I suspect we will see major changes in our education system.

public-redux

“ Public education is increasingly under attack.”

How is this measured? By whom? Why? I don’t necessarily disagree with the statement although I’m wondering why you think so.

“More and more people are looking for alternative avenues for their children's education.”

Again, how is this measured? Not by enrollment obviously. The percentage of students who attend public schools has been around 90% for the last 20 tears. The increase in homeschooling has been offset by the decrease in private schooling.

shiftless88

jsk like so many conservatives likes to throw out those generalizations. We saw it with the election last year. Conservatives attack the election integrity so they can then say "the integrity of the election is under attack". Circular firing squad.

public-redux

Mr. Kline doesn’t strike me as especially conservative. He has displayed a certain fondness for big government and a disregard for the constitution.

DickD

Do you mean you want funding for private schools, Jim? Hasn't that always been the parents responsibility and it wold be a violation of church and state if allowed for schools run by religious organizations.

Hayduke2

Question jsk - What does a SAT score have to do with teaching ability or , for that matter, college success? Also, beside making unsupported generalizations, it appear the author of this artlcle may just be lying. In fact, one study found that "Science majors tend to have lower GPAs on average, with chemistry being the major with the lowest average GPA. Meanwhile, education majors earn the highest GPAs on average." As an aside, the idea that GPA's may be impacted by grade inflation and course selection make the author's misinformation campaign a sad attempt at pushing his personal pet peeve.

jsklinelga

hayduke

I found the reference a little troublesome myself. Some folks, no matter what their intellectual capabilities are have always considered teaching their life goal. In school we had plenty of really smart teachers. And some not so smart.

shiftless88

Hayduke; while I support part of your statement, GPA is not the same as SAT scores. The latter are a bit more quantitative (we can argue if the test itself is really quantitative across the spectrum of those who take it, but the scores are quantitative).

Hayduke2

Shiftless - In reality, both can be considered quantitative but https://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorrison/2020/01/29/its-gpas-not-standardized-tests-that-predict-college-success/?sh=2859472032bd

shiftless88

jsk; willingly and knowingly financially supports racists but he won't own up to it.

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