Flynn Ross, University of Southern Maine
The Maine Department of Education and State Board of Education are reviewing changes to rules and regulations that govern all aspects of our public school systems. Currently under review, and accepting public comment until January 18, are significant changes to Teacher Certification regulations in Chapter 115. Many of these proposed changes are to strengthen teacher preparation and quality by increasing the requirements for foundations of literacy courses and adding pre-school certification to the 029 Early Elementary Teacher Certification.
However, simultaneously with changes to strengthen teacher quality is a proposal that undermines teacher quality through the addition of “Section 3: Professional Teacher Certification Endorsement Based on Work Experience.” As proposed these pathways to certification require no literacy courses, no content methods, and no demonstration of basic knowledge or pedagogical knowledge through test scores as required by Me. Dept. of Ed. Reg. 13 like all of the other professional teacher certifications.
Maine is facing a teacher shortage in many subject areas, particularly in hard to staff communities. However, we know through research and experience in other states that such ‘back door’ entries into the teaching profession allow underprepared teachers, often who are willing to work for less pay, who will be concentrated in highest poverty schools and districts serving our state’s most at risk students. This results in further stratification of access to quality education by stratifying access to quality teachers. Underprepared teachers have high rates of turnover which are costly for districts as well as lower levels of student achievement which are costly for our state.
To address the teacher shortage our state needs to invest in the preparing high quality teachers from our local populations by creating teacher residency programs paired with quality teacher preparation and student loan forgiveness programs for teaching in hard to staff areas. These are proven policy strategies to improve teacher quality and student achievement. (Note proposed in President Trump’s 2018 fiscal budget are recommendations for eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness for new borrowers after July 2018.)
The quality of our teaching force is essential to the quality and potential of our schools to prepare our children and the state’s future workforce. Our public policy can improve teacher quality through investments in preparing quality teachers, or we can pay the costs in high teacher turnover and low student achievement by looking for quick fixes in filling positions with underprepared individuals.
Flynn Ross is an associate professor of teacher education at the University of Southern Maine and coordinator of the Extended Teacher Education Program. She is the regional co-leader of the Maine chapter of the national Scholars Strategy Network, which brings together scholars across the country to address public challenges and their policy implications.