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Raising the Bar
posted by: Larisa | July 25, 2012, 05:54 PM   

It has recently been suggested that, in order to elevate the quality and status of teachers in America, teachers need to take a “bar exam.” After all, doctors and lawyers have serious hurdles to jump over in order to secure and maintain their licenses. The work that you do as a teacher is just as important as the work that a doctor or a lawyer does—in fact you educate future doctors and lawyers. Why shouldn’t teachers be held to the same standard as lawyers and doctors?

Being an effective teacher requires more than just attending professional development workshops.  Excellent instruction in the classroom facilitates student learning, which leads to better achievement on formal assessments and standardized tests. Starting the discussion with disappointing test results, however, often brings up the “chicken or the egg” dilemma: is poor performance on standardized tests the fault of the teacher for not providing quality instruction or is it the fault of the student for failing to work hard and learn? Frequently, teachers are shouldering the blame.

We should all work to elevate the profession and dispel the myth that teachers are just college graduates who became teachers because “they couldn’t do anything else.” We all know that great teachers work hard, feel that teaching is a calling, and make personal sacrifices (even though they shouldn’t have to). You graduated from college, worked hard as a student teacher, and continue to slave over lesson plans and grade books. Being a teacher requires so much more than mastery of content area. Standing in front of a classroom requires much creativity, planning, collaboration, and background knowledge—not to mention patience, adaptability, and self-evaluation. Being a teacher also demands a higher level of professionalism because you are shaping the minds of the next generation of doctors, lawyers, and teachers.

Speaking of doctors and lawyers, let’s consider the obstacles that people in these professions have to go through in order to practice their discipline. The first obstacle is medical or law school. It’s rigorous, nightmarish, and filled with many dark nights of the soul. If medical school and law school aren’t hard enough to weed out the less than qualified candidates, then let’s see them survive internships, residencies, boards, and bar exams. Getting the degree is one thing, but it’s another thing altogether to be competent enough to get and maintain the license.

Some argue that teachers should also have to go through these obstacles, especially since the framework is already there. We have teacher education programs, student teacher internships, and teacher certification exams. What’s missing?

Even if we make teacher education programs and certification exams more rigorous, the certification process itself needs serious reevaluation. Alarmingly, the National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) reports that “in almost every state, licensure requirements do not ensure that teachers know the subject matter they will teach.” Moreover, NCTQ reports that the requirements for teacher preparation typically do not ensure that teacher candidates have the most critical knowledge and skills. Clearly, there is room for raising the bar if we want to elevate the status and quality of teachers.

Teachers, what do you think about raising the bar to hold teachers to the same standard as doctors and lawyers?
Comment below.

Comments (1)Add Comment
pay me the same!
written by Kim Bakeberg, WI, July 29, 2012

If teachers need to take the equivalent of a bar exam or a medical exam ~ then PAY us the same as doctors and lawyers!

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