Dumbing down teachers

Anne Schulte is assistant professor of education at Chico State University

Under the guise of increasing teacher quality and student achievement, the teaching profession is slowly and systematically being dumbed down. The glut of state standards and adoption of scripted curriculums, for example, are turning our teachers into technicians. These movements are diminishing teachers’ professional responsibility to be authentic, care-giving decision-makers about what the students in their classrooms need. At this rate, third-grade teachers might as well be computer touch-screens.

One of the most recent examples of this assault on the education profession is the “Passport to Teaching,” a “short-cut” to teacher certification being marketed by the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE). The “Passport” is being advertised as a way for teachers to become “highly qualified,” as defined in President Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal education law.

However, the ABCTE process does not require any coursework or experience in teaching. It does not require any evidence that the candidate be able to help students learn. It does not require that any person educated in teacher preparation interact with the prospective teacher at all. Candidates need only a bachelor’s degree, to complete a background check, to pass two computer-based tests and to pay $500.

ABCTE sends the message that teaching is a low-skill occupation requiring only content knowledge. It implies that educational achievement is based solely on students’ ability to memorize and regurgitate information transmitted through the adult in the room. ABCTE does nothing to help the prospective teacher prepare students to be productive, critically thinking and active members of a community.

These are the types of experiences that can be provided only by professionals who are educated in how to use knowledge about their students, families and communities in order to provide students with equal access to skills and knowledge vital to a democratic society.

This certification-by-testing program began in 2001 and was created by the Education Leaders Council (ELC) and the National Council on Teacher Quality, an offspring of the conservative Fordham Foundation. It has been funded by grants from U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige’s discretionary fund.

ABCTE is scheduled to ask the California Commission on Teaching Credentialing (CCTC) on Aug. 12 to accept its tests as an alternative route to a California teaching credential. Local and state organizations will be present at the August meeting in Sacramento to protest ABCTE and dissuade the CCTC from accepting this program as a legitimate form of teacher preparation.