Monday, November 28, 2016

Online Teaching Credentials

Want to be a teacher, but just don't have the time or money to do all that, you know, college degree getting stuff? Well, you're in luck. Meet Teach-Now!

It's the Teach-Now Educatore difference (no, I didn't mistype "educator")! "Become certified to teach in virtually every subject, at virtually every level, in virtually every state" though it's more than that, because the company is international in its reach-- they have created "several strategic global partnerships that expanded our presence to Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America." It is the "most direct and cost effective pathway to teaching in the digital age."

Nice to know this product is still available today

You can keep doing what you're doing, squeezing this streamlines approach into your spare hours. You'll use the same "project-based learning technologies and project-based curriculum you will us" when you have your own classroom. You will get feedback through online streaming and working in a virtual classroom. Just nine months and about $6,000 and you can end up with a shiny new Masters Degree in education. The program does focus on people who are already grown up and out in the world; one entry requirement is to have a bachelor's degree.

This nifty business idea comes from education entrepreneur and former nun Emily Feistritzer, who in this laid-back PBS interview talks about her first job-- selling statues of the Virgin Mary that glowed in the dark. I swear that I am not making any of this up. Feistritzer became a nun at nineteen, left the convent at age thirty-one, landed a PhD in education, and began several decades worth of education-flavored business.

She became founder/CEO of the National Center for Education Information in 1979. Next she became founder/CEO of the National Center for Alternative Certification in 2003. Finally, she launched Teach-Now in 2011. According to the PBS interview, she launched that when she "plopped down a half-million dollars of her own money," and it now has fifteen full-time employees, revenues of around $4 million and a profit margin of around 20%. So the business of quicky internet teacher certification is apparently pretty healthy.

Back in 1985 she was behind a piece of federally-funded research that asked teachers about their sexual habits and their attitudes toward abortion. NCEI occasionally publishes surveys of teacher info, which, not surprisingly, look particularly at training pathways. And Feistritzer also took the nuns to court in 2002, accusing them of sexual abuse (that did not make it into the PBS piece). One gets the impression, reading through her history and watching her speak, that she is a tough and determined person.

Based in DC, Dr. Feistritzer apparently talks to lawmakers now and then and gets to put her two cents in with policy makers. She's a 2016 Brava Award winner for SmartCEO. Oh, and she's an actual member of the Education Writers Association, which is more than certain bloggers can claim.

The PBS-- well, it's hard not to think of it as an infomercial-- focuses on one African-American male student of the program, and highlights how neo-teachers rocketing through this program must do student teaching, which is monitored by video and on-line supervision. It talks about many of the things that are good about getting this young man into the classroom; it does not consider the question of why this program is the best way to get him there.

Teach-Now is, essentially, the teacher prep version of Competency-Based Education, the sort of remote decentralized we-don't-need-no-steenking-school-building version of education that some folks really want to have come down the pike. As with many similar oh-just-make-a-video-and-we'll-watch-that programs, I cannot for the life of me understand how a single camera POV can possibly give a supervisor enough information about what's going on in that classroom.

But hey. Modern, times, you know. I have a couple of friends who went on the internet and had themselves certified as ministers, so they can perform weddings and lead grace and all that cool stuff. Why not internet teachers, too-- both certified on the net and prepared to teach via the net. The program has reportedly produced about 1,200 of these internet teachers.

What nobody, including the happy-time PBS folks, says is whether the program is any good, whether it produces good teachers, or teachers that get jobs and stay in the profession for any amount of time. The only special qualities that are discussed ever are how it's quick, cheap, and convenient, and at that point my back is already up, because if quick, cheap and convenient are your metrics for an attractive experience, you probably aren't going to be happy in teaching in the first place, a profession that consumes time, costs you both the money you never earn and the money that you spend on the work, and which is an endless cavalcade of inconvenience (has any student ever asked for help when it was convenient). And I remain unconvinced that someone watching you being live-streamed through a smart phone is in any position to give you useful feedback on your classroom.

So while it's swell that one more person is getting rich from marketing another education-flavored product, I am doubtful that it's doing the profession any good.


  1. I'm trying to work out how this fits Reformers' call for more rigorous Teacher Education programs. The cognitive dissonance is doing my head in.

  2. So for $6K, I could theoretically teach upper division mathematics courses to undergrads even if I didn't know an integral from a semi-group? How fun!

  3. Online credentials! What a great idea!! In fact this idea should be expanded to other fields!!!!

    Maybe I can get a great job flying airliners by learning the Secrets of Flying via online video & instruction!

    Maybe I can become a heart surgeon via online course work! I am already excited by hold a beating human heart in my hand during my first surgery! My local Lowes has a Christmas sale on DeWalt cordless tools!!! My surgery tool kit will be full.

    The possibilities are ENDLESS!