A couple of weeks back Superintendent Kirsten Baesler announced a proposal to address chronic teacher shortages in the state, and frankly it was a breath of fresh air.
Succinctly, Baesler wants to crack open the door to letting people with subject matter expertise – “community experts” is the term being used – but who lack traditional teaching credentials into the classroom. This would be something akin to a person with a four-year music degree, but not a teaching degree, being allowed to take over a music class.
The proposal has passed the state Education Standards and Practices Board, and went to Governor Jack Dalrymple for approval. But the Governor has sent the proposal back asking for some modest tweaks.
You can read about them here, and they all seem pretty reasonable to me.
But not surprisingly, ND United (the combined teacher and public workers unions here in North Dakota) hates this idea.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]As to teacher pay, if school districts are having trouble finding and retaining qualified teachers (and they are), teacher compensation absolutely should be on the table. But it also can’t be the only solution we ever try.[/mks_pullquote]
“We’re opposed to having unlicensed, unqualified, untrained teachers in the classroom, and that remains our position,” Nick Archuleta, president of the group, told Mike Nowatzki.
What’s Archuleta’s plan to address the problem? Why, pay teachers more of course!
“He said the No. 1 thing that can be done is to make communities attractive places to live and work by improving salary packages and giving teachers more autonomy in their classrooms,” Nowatzki reports.
That last is ironic given Archuleta’s support for the Common Core standards. I’ve not bought into much of the hysteria about that policy, but there’s no question that it’s a top-down policy of the sort that results in less, not more, autonomy for teachers in the classroom.
As to teacher pay, if school districts are having trouble finding and retaining qualified teachers (and they are), teacher compensation absolutely should be on the table. But it also can’t be the only solution we ever try. Which is a major frustration I, and many others I suspect, have with teachers unions. It seems the only policy solution they ever have for education issues is more spending.
Which is absurd.
Baesler’s proposal is an inspired one. While increased teacher pay might lure more teachers to districts with shortages (I should note that the shortage problems are mostly in the rural areas), what will also widen the pool of potential teachers is a draw-down in some of the credentialing requirements for teachers.
I think we can trust local school officials to make good decisions about hiring “community experts” who can be adequate teachers without all of the credentialing rigamarole other teachers go through. And to the extent that’s unfair to teachers who have or are going through said rigamarole, that’s a good reason to perhaps take a hard look at that credentialing process.