How many teachers with 10 years or more experience would withstand a testing of their knowledge and skills? In order to obtain a teaching certificate, most states require taking one or more tests to demonstrate that one is capable of becoming an instructor in a specific subject. But once the precious paper is earned, no more is asked from teachers except attending a series of training sessions which do not check whether the audience has mastered the topic. The certificate renews every 5 years for a small fee and a declaration that the educator has taken the required training every year. There are quite a few teachers, however, who are in possession of a prized lifetime certificate, those who entered the profession before the year 2000. The above is true for Texas and may be slightly different for other states.
In any case, the initial burning question remains valid; how many old timers could actually pass a comprehensive diagnostic test in their chosen field? After all, science subjects have seen profound changes in the last 10 years and if the educator hasn’t kept abreast of innovations, he or she is teaching concepts that may be obsolete. History, believe or not, changes also; new discoveries of ancient documents and/or artifacts shed new light on what we believed was true. Geography has seen enormous alterations of boundaries as new countries have emerged and old ones have disappeared. Even English grammar and vocabulary change significantly over time. The only area that seems immune to the fourth dimension is math, as far as I know.
But as teaching methods and strategies evolve, improve, and update their educational concepts, do teachers keep up? Is the training offered on a regular basis making a difference? I can still remember an expert’s advice during one of those sessions: “Do not speak Spanish to your students. We have a serious problem in literacy and using Spanish simply reinforces the students’ belief that they don’t need to practice their English.” Of course, many Spanish-speaking educators feel more comfortable in their native language, but they fail to understand how critical the advice is, even if they teach science or math.
I have seen teachers fall asleep at their desk, apparent victims of apnea (obese), while students were smirking. I have heard teachers give their class mostly in Spanish, under the pretext that students would better understand (What about the few who do not understand that language?). I have witnessed teachers being rude to their class for no reason at all except to assert their power. I have corrected teachers who were giving wrong information. I have seen teachers abandon their class in the middle of the period. I have seen the worst and I have seen the best. Fortunately, the good outnumber the worse by a good margin, but why do we tolerate the bad apples, or the ignorant, or the incompetent, or the obsolete?
When teachers in Mexico were told that they had to present an exam of general information as part of a government research project, they found a thousand reasons not to do it (They have a strong union). I am sure American teachers would react the same way, fearful of exhibiting (in some cases) their possible ignorance. If a stimulus were attached to these exams, I am sure the pill would be much sweeter. To allay fears, educators would be advised to attend special remedial courses if necessary, without endangering their jobs. Only repeat offenders would be asked to find another position.
These ideas are not novel, of course, but very little has been done in the right direction. Firing good teachers because of budget limitations is totally ridiculous and harmful. We are the mightiest nation on earth and the resources, correctly applied, must be more than sufficient to address all our educational needs. Let us join forces (teachers and parents) to demand what this country requires. Perhaps the next election in November will provide the opportunity.