Saturday, December 21, 2013

Part 2 of 4: What Does the PISA Report Tell Us About U.S. Education?

So the other day I decided to tackle the myths that surround education after the results of the PISA came out. There were five major myths that come from this and I tackled one of them in the previous post. (You can read that post here).

Today I wanted to tackle a second myth. Sadly, I cannot do two because I do not have time to do two.

Myth #2: The US has bad teachers

I really hate it when people say this. Usually it is parents who think their child is a little angel and that it must be the teacher's fault that their child is not learning. (hint: Most of the time it is because the child is lazy and doesn't do what they are supposed to at unless I'm following the child home there isn't much I can do about it).

Personal feelings aside, the whole "Fire Bad Teachers!!!!" rant only applies to a small percentage of teachers. However, this very powerful emotion makes many people assume that only 1% of teachers are good with the rest being horrible when in reality, you should flip those numbers.

Most of the time, people scream about this due to test scores; the student's test scores didn't improve or the class average was lower then last year.

The sheer stupidity of this amazes me. Let's take my three sophomore classes I have.

The class average of the most recent paper were:

No, I did not teach the material any differently. It is the make up of students. If those were their standardized test scores, I would have been yelled at my second year and then praised this year. Chances are, the percentage would go down the following year and I would again get yelled at (or it could stay the same which shows I'm "not improving"). Either way it is dumb. My students change every single year. No one student is like the other. You can't expect the same test score from each student when you have other factors to consider (poverty rate, emotional status, hell, if they got enough sleep). There are so many variables that basing a teacher's "goodness" or "badness" off test scores is total crap.

The other reason that the myth is crap is because of this chart.

How can we constantly have "bad" teachers when ALL teachers need a degree of some sort? Especially when about 50% of those teaching school aged children (aka those not in preschool or kindergarten) have Master's degrees or higher?

Not only that, but it has been proven that students score better on tests when their teacher has a Master's degree Yes, I hate using standardized tests as an argument because, well I'm not fond of standardized tests, but I might as well since the opposing side only uses them as their argument. Might as well use their numbers against them.

Not only are teacher's getting advanced degrees which help students, they are also required to go through teaching certification process. This usually means getting a degree (either undergrad or grad) in education from an accredited university and having student taught which means they have to successfully prove themselves as teachers before they can get their certification.

None of this is an easy. 

For example, PA has the following requirements in order to get a certification:

  1. Hold a Bachelor's Degree: Baccalaureate degree awarded (either prior to admission to the program or as part of the program) or for vocational subject areas, two years of full-time wage earning experience in the area of the certificate requested.
  2. Completion of an approved program of study leading to certification in the area of certificate requested:
    • State-approved teacher education program completion, including a supervised student teaching experience, leading to a comparable certificate.
    • Affirmation/recommendation of successful completion from the certification officer at the college/university/educational entity on an application form designated by the Bureau or through the Teacher Information Management System (TIMS) for provisioned users in TIMS.
    • For active/valid out-of-state instructional certificate holders, with two (2) years of successful classroom experience, program verification will not be needed. A copy of your certificate and verification of the two years of experience will be required.
  3. Hold a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA): A 3.0 overall cumulative GPA as noted on Bachelor's or Master's transcript is required for an initial certificate in Pennsylvania. Active/valid out-of-state instructional certificate holders, with two (2) years of successful classroom experience will not be evaluated for the 3.0 GPA requirement.

    The cumulative GPA must be indicated on the college transcript. If it is not indicated on the college transcript, the overall GPA may be supplied in a letter from the college or university for out-of-state applicants. For applicants completing their program through a Pennsylvania entity approved to offer the program, the affirmation/verification should be completed through TIMS.
NOTE: All references to a GPA are relative to a 4.0 scale. Applicants with credits on other scales must have the equivalent GPA.
Please refer to Certification Testing and Scores for further information on GPA.
A list of frequently asked questions regarding the GPA-Praxis testing requirements can be found under Commonly Asked Questions.
  1. Successful completion of Pennsylvania required tests: All candidates for certification must meet the qualifying score for all applicable tests at the time their application for certification is received by the Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality. The required tests and qualifying scores may change as tests are reviewed and updated. Additional information regarding test score validity may be found in CSPG 21 - Testing.
Identify the certificate type in which you are interested and then refer to the Testing Requirements by Certificate Type document to identify tests needed.
NOTE:  Active/valid out-of-state instructional certificate holders, with two (2) years of successful classroom experience do not need to take the pre-professional skills test (PAPA), but must complete the content area test for the certification area requested.
Test codes, vendors and cut scores required for certification can be found on theCertification Testing and Scores document.
  1. Meet all Pennsylvania requirements related to citizenship, moral, ethical and physical/mental fitness.
You can find more information here (and yes I could talk about the 3.0 and grade inflation but then this post would be much longer than it already is)

Not only do you need this certification, you need this certification for any school you intend to teach in regardless of it is public or private. (if you want to see your state's requirements, click here)

Each state has requirements that are similar to this. These are not easy requirements to meet. Most of the time, they weed out the "bad" teachers especially the student teaching part. Do some bad teachers become teachers? Yes. But I bet you have encountered bad doctors that you think should be fired that haven't yet. 

It happens in every profession. You will never have 100% amazing teachers. However, that doesn't mean that if you encounter one teacher it means they are all bad.

Oh, and for the record, "tenure" isn't the devil here. It doesn't mean a teacher can't get fired. It just means that if they want to fire you, they actually have to have reasons and proof not just a bunch of parents and students complaining the teacher is horrible because the student earned a bad grade. If you think your child has a bad teacher, get proof and once you have proof something can actually be done about it.

Now sadly, I have procrastinated long enough in grading these freshmen exams. More to come in this series after I'm done with grades.

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