Not all educators are convinced that bill is the answer
SIKESTON -- While they say it would be wonderful to meet the state's teaching shortage of qualified math and science educators, some local educators aren't completely convinced a bill recently passed by the Senate is the answer.
Last week the Missouri Senate approved a proposal that would allow experienced professionals to more easily become teachers through an alternative certification from the state Board of Education through the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, or ABCTE.
"We hope it will be a measure that will create more science and math teachers for our schools. We think it's a step in the right direction," said Sen. Rob Mayer of Dexter, who represents Butler, Dunklin, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Ripley, Stoddard and Wayne counties.
Gov. Matt Blunt has announced his support of the alternative certification through the ABCTE. Currently the bill is under consideration by the House.
Certification wouldn't be available in the areas of early childhood education, elementary education or special education.
Part of receiving certification would require a form of student teaching, which would include 60 contact hours of working with children in the classroom.
Mayer said the alternative certification would likely appeal to individuals who have had other careers and who have a very good grasp of knowledge on the content area and want to continue to work and do something positive.
"Obviously, these folks would have to pass exams to show they have the knowledge, but also this 60-hour classroom experience to see if they have the teaching ability and techniques to convey the knowledge and actually teach the subject to the children," said Mayer, who is a co-sponsor of the bill.
Those enrolled in the program would also have to apply for a career continuous professional certificate after completing 30 hours of professional development within four years.
Involvement in a mentoring program would also be mandated as well as a successful performance-based teacher evaluation and participation in a beginning teacher assistance program, Mayer said.
A school district would be at liberty to decide if they would use a teacher certified through ABCTE, Mayer said.
If the bill passes, after six years, the program would be evaluated, Mayer said.
Mayer said he's received little feedback from local educators about the bill.
"However prior to the session, I talked with area superintendents. They indicated they were having a hard time finding middle grade math and science teachers," Mayer said.
Statistics collected by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2004 and 2005 show the state is not producing enough math and science teachers. During those years, the state churned out only 122 new prospective math teachers and 113 prospective science teachers, while there was a demand in the state to hire 422 math teachers and 408 science teachers.
"From what little I know of it (the proposal), anything we can do to increase the number of available teachers for our students is great," said Sikeston R-6 Superintendent Steve Borgsmiller.
However, a knowledge base doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with the ability to teach, Borgsmiller added.
"You have to be able to show and demonstrate the best way to learn whatever the topic," Borgsmiller said.
The ABCTE operates in seven states and has issued about 800 teacher certifications. During testimony on the bill before a legislative committee, Dave Saba, president of ABCTE, said his company provides a rigorous training that includes a 10-month preparation program, a teacher workshop series and subject matter refresher courses. He said only 40 percent of applicants are able to complete the program in the allotted time.
"It's a way of getting teachers certified, but the quality of teacher certification is highly questionable," said Dr. I. Sue Shepard, dean of the College of Education at Southeast Missouri State University.
Figures on how many prospective science and math teachers will graduate from Southeast this spring weren't available but the number of current majors were. Of the two content areas, 24 are majoring in family and consumer science; 13 in biology education; 9 in unified science (meaning they can teach across the board in science); 46 in math education; and 1 in physics education.
Shepard said the bill is a not a way to meet the teaching shortage.
"The federal government requires an increase in the quality of teachers in the classroom. This (bill) is doing the opposite," Shepard said.
Research shows that teachers who haven't gone through a teacher preparation program don't stay in the classroom and also their students don't perform as well on standardized tests, Shepard said.
Rather than obtain certification through ABCTE, Shepard thinks Southeast's Alternative Certification Program is a better way of meeting the teaching shortage. The program assists prospective teachers who have a bachelor's degree in the area to be taught and individuals who have a teaching contract with a school.
"So if you have a degree in biology, you can be hired by a school district and enroll in alternative certification and take courses online," Shepard said.
Those students already have a depth of content knowledge to begin with, Shepard said. They take courses over teaching methodology and follow appropriate instructional activities, which they receive while teaching, she said. Building administrators and mentor teachers also observe and provide support to the them.
"To be a good teacher, you need to know the developmental stages of children and what is appropriate methodology for what those youngsters are capable of learning and handling at those languages," Shepard said.
Currently 167 students are enrolled in alternative certification, which takes about two to three years to complete.
Regardless of how teachers obtain certification, the individual going into the classroom must be well prepared, Borgsmiller said.
Borgsmiller said: "Teaching is a people base, and it's establishing relationships with children and making that connection that helps the students to learn."
The bill is SB1066.