Saturday, May 5, 2007

The Quest to Stay Certified

Thinking about the hoops you have to jump through...I'm in graduate school - at least at the moment. When I first entered the public school classroom a couple of years ago as a teacher I already had a Masters Degree in Education - but it was in adult education and did not include any type of certification. The state of West Virginia certified me, provisionally, in special education. That Master’s Degree was actually my second graduate level degree.

Part of the reason I'm in school is that I change careers - twice now, actually. I went from working for a volunteer service organization overseas (a "missions agency" - 1983-1993) to working in higher education in a variety of semi-administrative student services roles (1997-2004) to teaching in the classroom. While I can understand some retraining being necessary, I had begun to suspect that the "high qualified" provisions of No Child Left Behind would keep me in college for the rest of my adult life.

Of course the colleges eat this up. My need to stay certified subsidizes their existence. I get credit for the classes I've taken (and paid for). No one much cares what I actually know or can do.

I make a joke out of the cost of going to college. If you look at my face you can see that my left nostril is somewhat bigger than the right. That’s because there’s a man at the Bursar’s Office at Marshall University who sticks his right forearm up my left nostril all the way to his elbow to retrieve tuition. Yes, I pay through the nose for going to Marshall…

Since I started teaching I've taken forty or so additional hours of graduate work, and because I live in Virginia and work in West Virginia, I've paid out-of-state tuition to take my classes. I have over 100 graduate hours altogether and while the coursework keeps me certified, it provides me not further pay advantage (I have a "Masters plus 45" now). I'm tired of it.

Georgia seems to have solved my problem for me. I've recently discovered that Georgia will certify me based on testing - without any additional college work. They'll do that provided I'm already a teacher someplace else (which I am). So after a review of my transcripts they've told me three tests I need to pass to be fully certified in special education (learning disabilities, emotional and behavior disturbances, autism, mentally impaired, etc.) And by the end of August I expect to have passed those tests, be certified, and be in the process of transferring that information back to West Virginia. Then I can take other tests and add additional certifications to my license - early childhood education, middle school social studies, high school English, whatever...

It saves me $4,000 in tuition this summer.

When NCLB is reauthorized next year, hopefully one of the things that will change is that the Federal government will mandate a "test out" option for many of the specialized certifications teachers need today. College was nice; but the best training I've gotten has consistently been professional development in-services and workshops provided by my school system.

1 comment:

Leella said...

I know your frustration with teacher certification. I entered the field of education 16 years ago with a MS in chemistry, but no education degree. At the time, a fifth year MAEd was available. As you commented, I pursued a degree that enabled me to teach, but resulted on no additional compensation. Alabama, the state in which I teach, ties teacher pay to highest level of degree, not hours. THerefore, I hold both a masters degree in field (plus 12 years experience as a research chemist) and a second masters degree in education and receive pay on the masters level.

But, truthfully, I love teaching chemistry and physics and love the kids. So, I guess it is worth it!

No child left behind - that's another topic! I completed a mathematics major equilivent shortly after I had completed my BS. In the ever so knowing eyes of HQ, I had to take 6 hours of mathematics to gain that status. Bear in mind I had 5 years experience teaching high school level math. As you have said, I often think it is about money, not ability or interest in students.

Oh well, I could also give my ideas about National Boards, but that for another time and place.

Have a great summer and wonderful year with the kids, which is who we are here to serve, through the Lord's grace.