When it comes to qualifying teachers, there is a changing landscape that influences the quality of education in the classroom. As some states struggle to retain qualified teachers, policymakers are looking for new avenues to bring in subject matter experts who may not have a degree in education or previous classroom experience. By lowering teacher qualifications, many argue that student achievement will struggle.
It is well understood that teacher quality is one of the most important school-related factors to influence student achievement. According to the National Council for Teacher Education (NCATE), teacher preparation, knowledge, experience, and qualifications set by teacher licenses have a huge role in supporting successful education programs.
The changing landscape of qualified teachers
Most teachers don't pursue their profession for the salary, and because education jobs are among the lowest-paying positions, there tends to be a high turnover rate among K-12 teachers. As some states struggle to recruit and retain qualified teachers, policymakers have found ways to bring in subject matter experts to teach certain subjects.
Arizona is one of the most recent states that has allowed prospective teachers to take a test of subject matter knowledge to earn a license to teach. Education leaders who oppose this license believe it does not qualify a person to teach because they haven't gained a degree or education that prepares them for teaching students.
Does highly qualified truly qualify teachers?
While many certification programs argue that their teachers are highly qualified, this is difficult to determine as many teachers have never studied child development and teacher preparation courses. These alternative programs lead thousands of unprepared teachers to enter classrooms without proper training.
The Every Student Succeeds Act
The current Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced the No Child Left Behind, doesn't require states to monitor teacher quality and schools don't need to inform parents of a teacher's education or lack thereof. Only Title I teachers are required to meet state licensing requirements. The lack of transparency and tracking of teacher quality can further decrease the opportunity for students to receive qualified teachers in the classroom.
Lower teacher qualifications affect the future
By lowering teacher qualifications, students can end up in classes that don't adequately prepare them for academic success and can affect our nation as the education system falls behind other countries in education rankings.
The National Conference of State Legislatures has explained, "most education systems are falling dangerously behind the world in a number of international comparisons and on our own National Assessment of Educational Progress, leaving the United States overwhelmingly under-prepared to succeed in the 21st century economy. At this pace, we will struggle to compete economically against even developing nations, and our children will struggle to find jobs in the global economy."
Countries around the world with high student rankings rely on teachers qualified with advanced degrees, teaching experience, pedagogical and subject-matter knowledge, and a greater ability to work with K-12 students. Teacher qualifications are imperative to help every student discover their potential and more fully excel in their academic pursuits.