The Baltimore City Schools, in tandem with the teacher’s union, made a landmark deal to end teacher pay based on seniority, or number of years on the job. Payment based on degree status will also end. Good for them, I guess, but what does that mean for teacher preparation? I know many would reply, “Well, who the hell cares about you, it’s about the children, so whatever’s best for the kiddies, that’s what we do.” I guess my reply would be a punch to the mouth? Nah, I’ll use my words.
Look, I didn’t get into education to read a script or follow test scores like stock tickers. I got into it because I like the work, it makes me feel good. Strict adherence to test scores just saps the life out of me and it pains me to train new teachers in this kind of climate. But I think this measure further reduces the influence of teacher education programs. Well, not even the influence, our relevance. It seems like more and more large school systems, like Baltimore City or County, are going to take teacher preparation or certification one day into their own hands, maybe bully a for-profit or community college into creating a fully customized program based on the system’s needs. At the very least, it will reduce our revenue in the coming years. What’s the incentive then to acquire a Master’s Degree? Counties will no longer reimburse teachers for graduate credits. Additionally, teachers will then take courses piecemeal to reinforce particular skills in meeting with county objectives. This will not require entrance into a formal degree program and again the revenue from such ventures would be spotty and unpredictable. Programs would have to constantly change courses to meet demand or the shifting winds of education reform preferences. No stable requirements, maybe only a few core courses, would survive.
Districts can also do this on the cheap, offering the courses themselves where they have the control over the content. They don’t have to pay for any new facilities; the schools are already there. If we want to get in on this, we have to buckle to the whims of the school system, having our faculty travel to schools to teach courses at rates competitive to what instructors could be acquired by the school. PhD’s need not be necessary and thus even less relevant than the master practitioner.
Ultimately, higher education, teacher preparation in particular, is left out of the education reform conversation. Is this an error of omission then, perhaps on purpose, or maybe because teacher preparation programs are not even on the radar? When I left for graduate school the second time to pursue a PhD, I was informed by my large MD county that earning that degree would not maintain my certification. I would have to take courses within and approved by the county. Taking advanced level curriculum or research methods courses at a top-ten curriculum and instruction program would not satisfy. I just don’t know.