Licensing law a ‘smoke screen’

By A Contributor

Regarding Sunday’s editorial, “Teaching changes can be beneficial,” the subtitle is, “New law addresses shortages in rural areas,” which it does not do. There is the possibility that the new law may indeed provide some needed improvement to education in Kansas, but that is a slim possibility, at best.

Let’s first look at tenure as it relates to keeping bad teachers from being fired. Due process, erroneously labeled “tenure,” does not prevent the firing of any public school teacher in Kansas. It does require that teachers be treated fairly, which grates on the nerves of many administrators and, espe-cially, the Kansas Associa-tion of School Boards. Any — I repeat, any — public school teacher can be fired easily by a competent school administrator, re-gardless of due process (tenure). The problem is not with overworked or bad teach-ers, it is with overworked or bad administrators.

Shortages of teachers in the sciences, technology, engineer-ing and math in rural Kansas are due more to very low pay and the very nature of living in a large rural environment. It is highly unlikely that people who have been working successfully for five years and drawing salaries commensurate with any of those job skills will be willing to become a teacher in rural Kansas for $30,000 a year.  This part of the new law is a smoke screen for doing away with due process (tenure) and weakening the Kansas National Education Association, as well as the teaching profession and teacher professionalism.

It is not a solution for attracting teachers to rural Kansas. Allowing “successful” people from science, technology, engin-eering and math to be licensed as teachers without teacher training sounds like a good idea that will solve our teacher shortage. It only sounds like a good idea when not examined beyond a political purpose. 

Aside from a degree, certifi-cate and/or five years of work, there is no subjective or object-ive method of determining a person’s qualification to enter a public school classroom. Little or no training in classroom management and virtually no training in adolescent behavior or needs are required. There is an extremely wide gap in knowing a subject and being able to build connected lesson plans over a course of study.

One of the biggest, if not the biggest, reason new teachers leave the teaching profession in the first five years is classroom management; it is extremely difficult. Another very signifi-cant reason is lack of support from overworked administra-tors. Professionals without the proper training can be a disaster for students.

A student in a college or university teacher education course receives training in all areas needed for success in the classroom.

The education student is closely supervised, is provided an internship as part of the program of study and is eval-uated as a prospective teacher. Additionally, the student must pass rigorous exams before being licensed and must undergo more evaluations while working as well as additional professional development.

Not everyone is success-ful. Some students drop out, some are counseled out, and some fail. Making it through the program does not guarantee success as a teacher, but the likelihood is much greater than for someone who has little to no training.  The individual with little to no training stands a far greater chance of doing damage to our children.

If an engineer would like to become a teacher, I say “Great!”  K-State has a teacher education program that he or she can enter to learn how to be a teacher. But it’s not an easy course of study.

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