Teachers in the Michigan public school system have had it rough over the past year considering a variety of measures passed by — and still under consideration in — the state Legislature, which is controlled overwhelmingly by Republicans. But a measure gaining interest in Lansing should give those new to the profession a reason to smile and put away their pocketbooks now that lawmakers are mulling a proposal to do away with a continuing education requirement for newly-graduated teachers, a move we support to not only save the state some cash, but also to give those fresh out of college a reprieve from what could reasonably be considered a redundant requirement.
State law currently stipulates that the state Superintendent of Public Instruction issues a provisional teaching certificate to new, recently graduated teachers. If that teacher meets certain requirements before the provisional teaching certificate expires, a professional teaching certificate is issued.
However, notwithstanding any contrary rule, individuals would not be required to have any teaching certificate to teach in Michigan other than a valid provisional teaching certificate or a valid Michigan professional education certificate under state Rep. Jim Stamas’ (R-Midland) House Bill (HB) 5013, according to an analysis of the bill by the state House Fiscal Agency. The bill, which was introduced in September and is under the consideration of the state House Education Committee, would stipulate that the state Superintendent of Public Instruction could not require completion of any credit hours, continuing education units, or degree requirements as a condition of a renewal of a teaching certificate that exceeds the education requirements in existence on the effective date of the bill for issuance of a provisional teaching certificate, the analysis states.
Representatives from the Michigan Association of School Administrators, the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators, and the Michigan Association of School Boards appeared before the House Education Committee last week and indicated a neutral position on the legislation when it came up for consideration. However, the bill remains in the hands of that committee.
In translation, what the legislation really would mean is that newly-graduated teachers will be spared putting in time and effort boning up on pedagogical skills, techniques, and theories they likely already possess and of which they are fluent, said state Rep. Hugh Crawford (R-Walled Lake, Wixom).
Such a goal is laudible.
Educators across Michigan have been forced to take a significant haircut since the beginning of last year in the areas of teacher tenure reform and contributions to their health care costs, which are now mandated to be at least 20 percent unless a local Board of Education decides to opt out of the new state public employee health care law championed by Republicans in the state Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder.
And teaching isn’t becoming easier, nor less important to the future of the state. In fact, with the goal posts frequently moving — whether they’re regarding what teachers need to accomplish before they receive tenure, or what high school graduation requirements are in place at any given time, or standardized tests that continually change and get harder for students to satisfactorily complete — educators are continually under the gun of the demand for higher test scores and better results, often with pay that doesn’t reflect their crucial role in society, longer hours and, let’s face it, not enough recognition for the jobs that they do day in, day out.
It’s no less difficult for newer teachers, who are often those going into the game with the freshest — or at least the most current — pedagogical chops. They are the ones with the brightest eyes and the bushiest of tails, the ones with the most to prove, the ones who enter the educational arena even in a cultural and political groupthink that seemingly targets them with a broad brush as being merely just the newest cogs in a teaching corps rife with corruption, fat paychecks, and bloated benefits packages.
Yet the state requires them to take courses and attend conferences dealing with subjects and teaching strategies and theory they likely learned in the very recent past. Such a requirement doesn’t make sense for new teachers, and lawmakers should strongly consider nixing such an unnecessary mandate for educators just getting their feet wet in their new schools.
Those courses and seminars should be optional for those teachers, not the deciding factor in whether the state issues them a professional teaching certificate.