The De-Professionalization of Teaching: What Does it Mean for Traditional Teacher Education Programs?

Traditionally those who wanted to become teachers enrolled in teacher education programs at a college or university to receive a degree that would allow them to apply for a teaching license in their state.  University and college based teacher education programs are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) which is authorized by the Department of Education to determine if schools have developed rigorous teacher preparation programs that meet national standards.  This process of accreditation ensured that new teachers would be prepared to educate children and assume the role as a teaching professional.

Today, there are a plethora of alternative certification programs that provide different pathways for those who want to work as a teacher.  In Washington, DC the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) lists 13 organizations that are state-approved educator preparation programs, of those only 8 are colleges and or universities. The other five are non-profit organizations or Local Education Agency’s. In an effort to recruit more teachers, especially in areas where there are national shortages such as special education, math and science, many states are advocating for alternative programs that offer certification to prospective teachers, without requiring a degree in education.  In New York, the Department of Education is now asking for the ability to license teachers without having to go through college or universities. What does this mean for traditional teacher education programs?

One of the well known alternative programs is Teach for America (TFA). TFA recruits recent college graduates to teach in high poverty, inner city schools. They receive five weeks of training before receiving their own class of students.  Teachers from traditional programs take a variety of courses to gain knowledge about child development, teaching, and learning that typically take 4 to 6 semesters, and spend 12 weeks or more as a student teacher working full time alongside a qualified teacher before they are expected to take on their own classroom. The latter is more time consuming, but it also offers more opportunity to become highly qualified.

Teacher shortages are real and we must do something to recruit more highly qualified young people into the field of education. But we must remember that teaching is a profession. It requires skills and knowledge and opportunities to learn from those who have more experience.  When we reduce teaching to something that can be learned in a few short weeks, we devalue and de-professionalize the field of teaching.

Traditional teacher education programs must now compete for students that might be swayed by these new programs offering a paying job as a teacher much sooner than what it takes to complete an undergraduate program. But is teaching a job or a career? Are we professionals or are we low-skilled workers? Do you want the person educating your child to have the knowledge, skills, and preparation needed to be a great teacher, or would you prefer someone who had five weeks of training?

Dr. Denisha Jones is an assistant professor and coordinator of Early Childhood Education at Howard University

6 thoughts on “The De-Professionalization of Teaching: What Does it Mean for Traditional Teacher Education Programs?

  1. If teachers do not attend a college or univeristy they will be paid a much lower wage. The current trend about teacher bashing is based on money. Some citizens feel that their taxes are too high and would rather sacrifice education.

    • denishanjones says:

      Lower pay is a huge consequence of de-professionalization of teaching. Although some of these teachers will have undergraduate degrees in other areas, most teachers do not begin making a decent salary until they get masters degree in their field. These alternative certification programs do not offer a degree and without it most of the teachers will find their salaries lower then those who took the traditional route to certification. I understand the tax concern, but if we are not willing to invest in the education of our children and the preparation of our teachers, our society will suffer in the long run.

  2. JVJones says:

    What a crucial question! Until attitudes of Americans toward education cease to be schizophrenic – teaching is critical and teachers are accountable for miraculous results but there’s no need to respect them, provide support or pay them a professional salary – students will continue to underachiever and be denied opportunities to fulfill their dreams and potential.

    • denishanjones says:

      What I do not understand is that the new mantra is that a highly qualified teacher has the most affect on student achievement, but we only see highly qualified through the lens of ability to raise test score. Shouldn’t a highly qualified teacher be paid and treated as someone who is highly qualified? We can not recruit math and science people into a field that does not pay them as well as other fields, does not give them the respect that comes with other professions, and puts an enormous amount of pressure on these people to overcome the challenges of poverty. Why would you want to do that when you get a much better paying career without all the pressure and criticism?

  3. Marcia Bolton, EdD says:

    I direct the Intern program at Widener University. This program is an alternate way for those without a degree in education to receive certification. Unlike TFA, our program requires a student to take courses in education and actually secure a teaching position (long term subbing counts) and be supervised by our University. The first classes and initial testing required by Pennsylvania to issue an Intern Certificate, guarantee these alternate certification candidates have the basic pedagogy classes before they walk into a classroom. The supervision while actually having a job gives the candidate the pay then need while learning the remaining pedagogy needed for their craft; they have three years to finish other courses.
    Yes, this process takes a bit of time, but doesn’t it meet the “highly qualified” teacher a lot better than 5-6 weeks of instruction someone can “take” on how to make students pass a test? I do not think I could have learned all I needed to step into a classroom with only 5-6 weeks of instruction of how to get students to meet criteria like TFA courses require. I certainly would not want a surgeon completing a surgical operation on me without some practice and some mentoring in addition to taking and passing a training course.
    I do agree with the comment about evaluation and certification processes being schizophrenic. Why don’t policy makers have real conversations with those in the profession before they slap some fast track program for creating teachers into place? The same fast track ill-prepared teachers will give the rest of the profession a black eye when the exact people who put them into teaching positions come around and slam the schools for not “being accountable” and for not teaching students enough to pass standardized testing!! No wonder the general public does not take teaching seriously as a profession…anyone can take a “prep course and walk into the classroom and we as certified professionals do not cry out…we get busy and try to help out this person that is less than qualified…because that is who we are…teachers!
    Let’s get real about our profession…contact policy makers and demand anyone put into a classroom receive training and mentoring that will qualify that person before they are paced in the positions of guiding our children.

    • denishanjones says:

      We are developing an alternative certification program at our college as well. But like yours it does come with 2 years of course work and a semester of student teaching. But they do not have to get a masters degree just certification. In some ways I think we are trying to compete with TFA which is why we are offering the program. Getting certified without the MA degree means you will be paid less, but we have decided to let the students decide. Alternative certification programs that still require extensive training can be a good program, but those that throw teachers in the classroom after 6 weeks make a mockery out of our profession. I agree with your idea of contact policy makers, maybe we need to start a white house petition? My other thought is that TFA would not be so bad if they were training people to assist teachers in classrooms. Can you imagine if every teacher had a TFA assistant in their classroom to help them educate children? That would be so much better than giving them their own classroom, and the fact that they are encouraged to leave after a couple years would not be so bad if they were just a teacher assistant.

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