Published on -6/8/2014, 12:25 PM
Beginning July 1, school districts in Kansas that choose to can hire non-teachers to instruct students in specific subjects. We can't imagine a more uneducated approach in dealing with this state's children.
The result of legislation that ostensibly was addressing teacher shortages in areas such as science, math, technology, engineering and finance, all one needs is a bachelor's degree in one of the subject matters and five years of work experience to be hired. To teach vocational education, an undergraduate diploma isn't even required -- merely an industry-recognized certificate.
The law displays great disdain for the noble profession known as teaching.
Having expertise in a subject matter does not necessarily translate to having any skill to convey that knowledge. It can be tough enough attempting to train fellow adult co-workers, let alone still-developing young minds.
Content knowledge is critical, but no more or less than the ability to educate. Teachers should know how to create coherent and focused lesson plans, and then be able to tailor their approach for varying learning styles.
"We teach kids first, content second," Kansas National Education Association President Karen Godfrey is fond of saying.
KNEA understandably is against the new prerequisites the Kansas State Board of Education was forced to adopt because of the new law.
"Permitting Kansas classrooms to be open to people with five years of work experience in a particular field of science or math does not prepare them for the rigors of teaching," the KNEA offered in a press release. "Many teachers dedicate their entire lives to expanding their own skill set and knowledge of the following core aspects of the teaching profession through master teacher programs, National Board Certification, and by seeking advanced degrees in the following foundational areas:
* Learning theory and age-appropriate instruction;
* Classroom management techniques and strategies;
* Teaching culturally diverse populations;
* Teaching students with special needs, learning disabilities and giftedness;
* Effective classroom discipline;
* Differentiated instruction and curriculum development; (and)
* Bullying and school security."
Effective teachers have fundamental understandings of psychology, pedagogy, methods, assessment, management, and on and on.
Does working in private industry prepare anybody adequately for the rigors of teaching? We would say not.
Yet Gov. Sam Brownback, who signed the bill into law, enthusiastically believes it does. Or that it doesn't matter.
He told the Garden City Telegram he is particularly excited about the alternate teacher certification, which "allows high schools to hire people for teachers like colleges do. They get a subject expertise person and then hire them to teach say, journalism, at the community college. You cannot do that at high school, but now you will be able to do so in the STEM area -- science, technology and certified technical education."
That the governor and legislators don't appear to recognize the difference between a 15-year-old's learning capacity and a 19-year-old's is not surprising. Wording for the law came from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group representing business interests that provides "model legislation" to all 50 states.
As only local school districts have the authority to hire teachers, we would hope none take advantage of the new law. Kansas needs to be smart enough to problem-solve STEM teacher shortages in a manner that is not detrimental to students.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry