Last week’s education news in the US was marked by former New York City Schools Chancellor, Joel Klein, and American Federation of Teachers President, Randi Weingarten, agreeing that teachers should have to pass an exam very similar to the lawyer’s Bar Exam before being allowed to teach.
While it’s kind of bizarre that Klein and Weingarten agree on anything in education, the fact that what they’re agreeing on is a Bar Exam for teachers brings this most decidedly into the realm of the bizarre. Most experts whom I trust in the United States education world agree that the problem is how difficult it is to remove bad teachers from the system, not that the way to have fewer bad teachers is to dramatically raise the bar for entry to the profession. This is just bizarre and wrong.
I have known thousands of teachers in my life, mostly in the independent school system in the United States and Canada. Many of the best teachers I ever met and had the pleasure to work with never went to teacher’s college, though many did. What is a universal problem in North America is that there are amazing people with great work and life experience who desperately want to enter the teaching profession but can’t because of the barriers to entry, some of which are artificial.
I would love to see a system where it was significantly easier for a skilled and passionate person to enter the teaching profession. I would like to see it become much easier and accepted for these people to get their training on the job, along with any certification the system deems they need. Part of that, from where I see the world of education, should absolutely not be an additional examination that will weed out many teachers who are potentially stellar additions to the profession.
Don Adams, Head of School