Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012



By Domenick J. Maglio PhD. Traditional Realist

Americans are very busy attempting to survive in a mobile society. We have little time to devote to researching an item or a professional’s qualifications. We rely more on others who we do not know to do the job for us. Certified stickers appear on everything. Cantaloupe, spinach, scallions, chicken, hamburger, organic foods receive a certified sticker that is supposed to guarantee its safety and high quality. Obviously with all the food alerts, certification is not working.

The process of certifying foods, mechanics, lawyers, doctors and other occupations may give us false confidence to purchase the item or service but does not insure its quality. The high performance of the item or service over time gives greater credibility to its value.

Even the past achievements of a person are not foolproof in predicting his future performance. The New York Yankees get the best available players by having the highest payroll in baseball. This strategy has not translated into consistently winning the World Series. Tiger Woods is another example of the fallibility of past performances predicting future excellence. In education we find the same phenomenon.

A study by Vanderbilt University found that teachers who were offered bonuses of up to $15,000 per year for improving student’s standardized test scores, had the same gains on these exams as those teachers who did not receive any incentives.

Often the highest priced teacher is one with the most seniority and advanced degrees but this does not necessarily guarantee that she is a good teacher. Arne Duncan, President Obama’s secretary of Education, stated “giving raises for Master’s Degrees is a waste of money.” There is no evidence to suggest money alone improves student achievement.

Certification programs of teachers differ widely but none have been highly correlated with student achievement. One of the most highly recognized teacher certification programs is the National Board of Professional Teacher Standards, NBPTS. This certification requires four video portfolios and six essay examinations evaluated at an assessment center. The teacher receives a ten-year certification and a significant increase in salary for this subjective process.

According to the director of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Raleigh, North Carolina, George C. Leef, “Despite the large amount of tax money that has been spent promoting certification there is no evidence that the certification process does anything to elevate a teacher’s ability to instruct students. Furthermore, there is no evidence that certified teachers are better at producing high student achievement than are non-certified teachers.

There are many different teacher certifications that exist in America. The alternative certification type programs allow professionals with life work experience access to the classroom as a teacher. This is a similar approach to the apprentice programs of the past. These mature four-year degreed individuals but without an education degree learn from doing and have become valuable assets to our schools. In public schools there have been waiver certification programs to allow teachers outside of their educational credential to teach in other areas.

Any certification programs that enlarge the teacher pool are better than certifications that limit them. A certification program that attempts to stamp a person as an excellent teacher while limiting others from earning the same recognition is counter productive to improving the quality of teaching. For many years public schools have alleviated shortages in particular subject areas by granting waivers to teachers to earn certification in a new subject area. This has worked well to meet staffing needs.

A teacher is like any professional who has to begin by practicing his profession. The incredible engineering feats by the ancient Egyptians were accomplished through trial and error rather than through the scientific approach. Doctors practice medicine, lawyers practice law while teachers practice teaching. An excellent teacher has to have an intrinsic motivation to be the best teacher he or she can be and not be solely motivated by extrinsic monetary or title rewards.

The commitment of a teacher to practice being the best he or she can be has to be an ongoing one to be a quality educator. Their dedication to improve by observing the results of their actions is more important than a credential or certification.

Teaching like other professions is too complex to break into discreet measurable parts to arrive at a true picture of the teacher’s ability. There are too many intangibles. A teacher’s knowledge of a subject does not necessarily translate into being a good teacher. The integration of mission and personhood propels teachers over the top to achieve a level of excellence that inspires students to do the same.

Certification programs do not insure the current quality of the teacher’s performance. The teacher’s history in a particular school’s classroom setting is the most useful method of selecting a teacher for one’s child.

A positive reputation earned by an individual’s continued desire to reach each student is far more reliable for parents in choosing a teacher for their child than any “Good Housekeeping” stamp of approval.

Dr. Maglio is the author of Invasion Within and Essential Parenting. He is a psychotherapist and the owner/director of Wider Horizons School.


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