Teacher certification and uniform pay scales hamper ETC staffing

Editor’s note: This essay is an entry in Fordham’s Wonkathon 2022, which asked contributors to answer a fundamental and difficult question: “How can states remove the policy barriers that prevent educators from reinventing high schools? ?” Learn more.

As our world rapidly changes and advances, K-12 education remains largely the same as in decades past. The important debate on the redesign of schools has mainly focused on preparing students for university. Yet about 40% or more of high school graduates do not go on to college. The single university preparatory stream does a disservice to students and jeopardizes their future career opportunities.

Often overlooked in discussion, the critically important Vocational and Technical Education (CTE) prepares students to enter the workforce directly. There is no shortage of demand for skilled and skilled workers in plumbing, electrical, welding, carpentry, masonry, electronics manufacturing, agriculture, landscaping and from the kitchen. These professions require specialized training, and when done well, CTE programs can create post-secondary pathways for the growing percentage of students who are not college-bound.

A key part of creating an exceptional CTE prep track in today’s K-12 schools is employing top-level subject matter experts with real-world industry work experience rather than simple theoretical knowledge. Moreover, students need CTE instructors who are not only passionate but also have advanced skills in the particular area of ​​study.

However, political obstacles prevent educators from reinventing K-12 schools. Two significant barriers make it extremely difficult to recruit and retain seasoned CTE instructors in high school classrooms. First, certification requirements that create a barrier to the entry of highly qualified and competent subject matter experts into the teaching profession. Second, there are uniform salary grids that overlook qualifications, subject matter expertise, and experience outside of K-12 classrooms.

Barrier to teacher certification

Teacher certification laws create a rigid and flawed process for the selection and employment of CTE teachers. Although they are intended to ensure that competent teachers lead our classrooms, in reality they often keep highly qualified people out of the profession. By requiring a retired professional or mid-career switch to complete an expensive and time-consuming alternative certification program at a college or state, a pipeline of potential candidates is cut off.

Moreover, teacher certification has not been proven to be synonymous with success in promoting student learning. On the contrary, data has consistently revealed that, on average, private schools, charter schools, and schools that hire non-Teach For America certified teachers produce superior learning outcomes compared to traditional public schools employing primarily teachers. certified.

Teacher certification laws should be reformed to give districts more flexibility in hiring CTE teachers. This should include hiring support teachers, who could teach on a fixed-term contract rather than as full-time employees. The use of adjunct teachers would allow industry professionals to bring their valuable content knowledge and hands-on, hands-on experience to the classroom as entrepreneurs, teaching the subjects in which they specialize.

The adjunct teacher concept has been well tested in American colleges and universities. The benefits of employing independent contractors as teachers are considerable. These include more flexible staffing as enrollment numbers change, cost savings since expensive benefits are typically not included, and the ability to attract a wider pool of applicants, including those who looking for less than full-time employment.

High-quality teachers with strong subject matter expertise are essential to quality student learning, whether with core curriculum content or CTE instruction. District and school leaders should be free to attract and hire CTE teachers who best match their programs and student learning needs.

Obstacle to teacher compensation

The current salary structure is another barrier preventing highly qualified CTE professionals from entering the teaching profession. Teacher compensation systems reward seniority regardless of performance or experience outside of teaching. With the ability to offer only an entry-level salary while ignoring years of honing a professional’s skills and gaining knowledge in a particular area, administrators have little to offer. encourage individuals to leave their career field and enter the classroom. The need is particularly acute because teachers graduating from schools of education rarely have professional experience in the fields of ETC.

Teacher compensation rules should be reformed to allow administrators to determine compensation on an individual basis — for initial hire as well as for annual performance-based adjustments — within their allocated staffing budget. High caliber professionals are attracted to jobs that recognize their expertise and reward their performance on the job, which the current system does not do.

Final Thoughts

Recognizing that the teacher is the number one factor in the school of student learning, it is essential to open the pipeline into the field of K-12 education for highly qualified experts in the matter working in specific industries rather than relying on a dwindling and less qualified supply of education schools.

This is especially true for the ETC. With the current labor shortage in many CTE professions, coupled with the shortage of teachers as well as high rates of student disengagement and absenteeism, attractive CTE offers are a strategic solution. More students need to be engaged and equipped to enter high-demand CTE careers.

A big step forward would be for states to remove outdated teacher certification requirements and compensation structures that hinder the recruitment of high caliber candidates into their industries. Performance-based pay should be added to incentivize and reward teachers who produce high-level learning outcomes among their students. And adjunct teachers offer an exciting, new, highly flexible and low-cost recruitment solution. The CTE, by reinventing high school by effectively preparing students to enter the world of work directly, should lead the way in these new approaches to educational policies.

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