In response to New York State’s decision to eliminate the Academic Skills Literacy Test for teacher certification, Education Trust Executive Director Ian Rosenblum stated on Tuesday, “it is deeply disappointing that the Regents and State Education Department are lowering the bar for teacher literacy skills…We should be focusing on ensuring that prospective teachers receive the support they need in teacher preparation programs rather than weakening the teacher certification standards that can help ensure students have equitable access to strong educators.”
While this statement looks good on paper or perhaps sounds good to an undiscerning ear, it is actually rooted in a very deeply flawed philosophy of education. One can’t ascertain the strength of an educator based upon results on one stringent standardized test during the teacher preparation process, no more than one can ascertain a strong student by how well he or she does on English Language Arts, Math, or Regents exams.
Yes, it is true that we want all students to be taught by knowledgeable educators. However, a huge part of that knowledge base, presently missing from teacher preparation programs around the country, is culturally relevant pedagogy. Eighty-three percent of educators in the United States are White and so the likelihood of a teacher teaching students who come from a different background than themselves is highly likely. Coursework and exams for certified teachers must include a working skill set of how to successfully approach this inevitable student/teacher dynamic in the classroom.
But there’s no outcry for that. Instead, Mr. Rosenblum is concerned with a burgeoning teacher’s literacy skills. Is he aware that teachers in New York, in order to become professionally certified, must earn a Master’s Degree within five years of earning his/her initial certification? If you complete graduate school and the gamut of teaching methodology classes AND student-teaching practicum successfully, chances are you’re pretty literate!
Is Mr. Rosenblum aware that since I was certified to teach English Language Arts in 2010 and Literacy in 2012, the testing requirements to become a teacher have gotten increasingly more stringent, yet the salaries for teachers have pretty much remained the same? It seems to me that Mr. Rosenblum is barking up the wrong tree when it comes to providing an equitable education to all. Teachers are more than educated to do the task at hand.
Poor Black and Brown students get sub-standard teachers not because the teacher doesn’t know how to teach well, but because there is no internal or external incentive for them to do so! Some teachers don’t genuinely like the poor Black and Brown students! Often they are afraid of them! Often they teach in poor-performing schools as stepping stones to show how much classroom management they have (since that is what is revered when it comes to students in the ‘hood) when they interview for their next positions out on Long Island or up in Westchester County after a few years of teaching in the City.
You want teachers to jump through more testing hoops? OK, cool! Come up off that money then and pay us what we are worth AND teach these White teachers about the Black and Brown children they’ll be teaching in their classrooms everyday! If you’re not willing to do that, Mr. Rosenblum, take several seats — in the back of the classroom.