Monday, February 19, 2024

American Board: Bush II's Teacher Cert Workaround

Back in 2001, Bush II launched an alternative teacher certification program. Called the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, the organization was launched with a tiny $5 million grant from the Department of Education. It's still up and running and offers one of the simplest shortcuts to teaching certification out there.

By 2003, ABCTE was rolling out, and it claimed to address the same problem that fans of alt certification schemes still love today. The Washinton Times applauded the "rebellion against sole reliance on traditional teacher certification" and quoted Ed Secretary "Fake Texas Miracle" Paige:
"Some people will argue that this change is too radical, that it's too risky, that we should maintain the status quo," Mr. Paige said at a National Press Club event with board leaders. "Well, I agree that it's radical. It's radically better than the system we have now, a system that drives thousands of talented people away from our classrooms."

Also, this:

To achieve our goal of a quality teacher in every classroom, we need to ... raise academic standards for new teachers so they are prepared to teach our children to high levels and remove the barriers that are keeping thousands of talented people out of the classroom.

Yes, even then, conservatives were sure that all sorts of talented folks were being kept out of the classroom by those silly teacher college programs (you know--the ones that are simultaneously too restrictive for many people and also too easy so they graduate the worst students).  

Lisa Graham Keegan was at the time CEO of the "reform-minded" Education Leaders Council (which would soon merge with AccountabilityWorks); Keegan has since gone on to disrupt education from Arizona to New Jersey with a variety of reformster activities. But in 2003, she was saying to anyone who called ABCTE a quicky approach that devalued professional knowledge that "the board's teacher-certification program will be "comprehensive" and is being developed by "expert thinkers" in the teaching profession." Also, fully No Child Left Behind compliant, so, sure to be awesome.

There wasn't much explanation of what these expert thinkers would came up with, exactly, though Paige had the broad outlines in hand:

It focuses on what teachers need to know and be able to do in order to be effective, instead of the number of credits or courses they've taken. It demands excellence rather than exercises in filling bureaucratic requirements.

Also, making it easier for people who studied something else in college to themselves into teaching. 

I am not going to try to track down all the ins and outs of what is now called American Board over the past twenty years, but we sure know what it looks like now. 

American Board remains aimed squarely at career changers. It has been approved in just fourteen states (my home state of Pennsylvania was the first to get on board) and the exact contours of the program vary slightly from state to state. There are other states where the program isn't recognized, but reciprocal cert programs may let you carry over the cert you got from the program in one of the fourteen states. You can choose from ten certifications. 

What do you need to get into the program? Any bachelor's degree. Pass a background check. That's it.

What do you actually do in the program? You use a bunch of self-paced, self-study on-line test prep materials to get ready to take two online tests-- the subject area exam, and the Professional Teacher Knowledge exam. When you're ready, just log on to Pearson VUE. You've got 12 months to get all of that done. 

After that, some state by state variations. In Pennsylvania you get a one-year temporary teaching license, sign up for a program with Point State Park College that involves a couple of online courses and a 12-week mentorship. (You can watch a brief video here about the program.) In Florida, you meet some state department of education requirements and then get observed and mentored by your district in your first year.

Student teaching? They figure if you're a grownup with a college degree and a real job, you probably don't need that. They do suggest you try some substitute teaching to get a feel for what and whom you'd like to teach. 

So, overall, not very rigorous preparation for the classroom, but for a couple grand, some on-your-own test prep for professional tests that some states will consider good enough to give you a toe in the door. Fast and cheap.

American Board is based in Atlanta. The current executive director is Melanie Olmstead Pharis, who also writes the blog (including the post celebrating National School Choice Week). 

I didn't find any indication of how many folks are taking advantage of the board's Passport To Teaching. It could be a useful program for a certain sort of aspiring teacher, but mostly it appears to cut so many corners that it could easily set someone up for failure in the classroom, which is always an excellent way to drive someone out of the teaching profession. It certainly doesn't seem to have dented the ongoing teacher staffing challenges in many states. One more great reformster idea that didn't pan out. 

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