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Instant Teacher – Just Add Tests

The Texas State Board of Education by a slim majority approved a plan that would create "instant teachers" for middle and high schools to hire. The new two-year certificate could be obtained by anyone with a degree "related" to the subjects they plan to teach and by passing a state test. It’s interesting that many of those on this panel opposed to the plan spoke out during the meeting but none of the supporters were willing to go on record.

I can already hear the cheers of the "reformers" who will say how wonderful this kind of plan is. Now they say, many classrooms in Texas can be led by eager young teachers with "real world" experience and none of that nasty teacher college indoctrination to get in the way. After all, the only thing a teacher really needs is lots of knowledge in their subject matter and a love of kids. Plus lots of good test prep materials, of course. And keep them away from those evil union reps.

Well, don’t expect any defense of most college teacher training programs from me. I would hardly call them "indoctrination" but most are largely disconnected from the realities of K12 classrooms. However, beginning teachers certified in the Texas program will still need some kind of training and support if they are going to be successful with their kids and if we expect them to continue in the profession.

The piece that is missing from the Texas plan and from many other short cuts to teacher certification is a strong in-school mentoring and support program. Teachers, especially during their first three years, need a mentor and the support of a team within the school to help them learn lesson planning, effective discipline, teaching to different learning styles, working with kids with a variety of learning disabilities, and the dozens of other little pieces that come with the students, classroom, and textbooks.

Texas, like other states considering such instant teacher plans, abandons responsibility for this kind of support, leaving it entirely up to the local school systems. Some districts already have good mentoring programs in place to provide the needed support and training. Many others will as one critic put it will "simply hand them a videotape to watch before they start teaching". Without the on-the-job support, some of these new teachers will still do well and become good educators, maybe great. Experience has shown, however, that most will leave the profession within five years and many will be asked to leave by the end of two.

So why didn’t the Texas Board of Education require school systems to implement a good mentoring program to help these new employees to become good teachers? One word: money. Good teacher support programs cost money and, what’s worse for the politicians, the return on such an investment will not be seen for five or more years down the line. Learning to be a good teacher for most of us took time and the support of many people, facts that "instant" teacher programs tend to ignore.


  1. Dave

    But what do you expect from Texas? Crazy, crazy people.

  2. chett

    Ping! Here’s my response, over at ReformK12. Cheers!


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