Crossing Your T’s and Dotting Your I’s: Educational Policies and You

“Do your homework.”

The admonishment applies not just to school and students, but to teachers and educators-in-training as well. When in the process of becoming a teacher, it’s vital to look not just inwards at your classroom and the work done therein, but also outwards at the rules and regulations surrounding education at large.

Education policies in the United States are primarily established at the state level. Each state decides the requirements for teacher education programs, using its power and authority to address the key issues and challenges involving teacher education. State agencies, such as the state departments of education or other credentialing boards, are responsible for the approval of any teacher education program. Colleges, universities, and other teacher education institutions can formulate their own policies and procedures concerning their teacher education programs, provided they are within the framework of state policies.

Several organizations and associations assist policy makers at both the state and institutional level in developing policies that will enhance the teacher preparation process. These organizations assist significantly in analyzing current education policies, conducting research, and promoting collaborative work between the intellectual and political communities. Here are a few examples of such organizations:

  • The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) developed a 22-state partnership network to further teacher preparation efforts.
  • The Standards-Based Teacher Education Project (STEP), with the support of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE), enables institutions in training teachers to meet academic standards.
  • The Holmes Partnership is a network of colleges, universities, agencies, national organizations, and institutions focused on reforming teacher education programs.
    Licensure and Certification

States are responsible for setting guidelines for licensing teachers and issuing those licenses. The state department of education or a credentialing agency is involved in the process of setting licensure requirements.

The traditional route to becoming a teacher includes the following:

1. Completion of a bachelor’s degree.

2. Meeting the requirements of a teacher preparation program.

3. In most states, completion of the PraxisTM I, which assesses basic reading, writing, and math skills; and the Praxis II, which assesses subject matter knowledge and/or pedagogical skills.
It is important to note that licensure requirements vary from state to state and may vary in terms of exams and scores needed for obtaining a teaching license.

States also specify different levels of certification, depending on the age group of students and the subject matter to be taught. There are also different types of teaching licenses, including provisional, emergency, and permanent licenses. It is important to understand the key difference between a license and a certification. A license authorizes you to teach, whereas a certification is an indication of what you are qualified to teach. For example, you may possess a license to teach, with a certification in elementary education. You may also have more than one certification attached to your teaching license. Note that not all states use the term certification; some use endorsement.

One of the chief contributors to a high attrition rate among teachers is the tediousness of the requirements for licensure reciprocity in most states. This can act as a deterrent to those who would like to move to another part of the country. However, recognizing the need to overcome this hindrance, many states are now easing their requirements for reciprocity.

Several organizations and associations are making a sustained effort to reform teacher licensure requirements in order to meet professional teaching standards, encourage interstate mobility, and enhance field experience. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and Title II of the Higher Education Act (HEA) allow states to use grant funds for reforming teacher licensure requirements.

Take the time to look into your state and district policy. Know the certifications and licenses you need to get to work in a certain area before moving there. While it may be a tedious process, doing your homework now will help you stay ahead of the game later.

Think of all these rules and regulations as the outline for your life-long lesson plan. Just like you need to do your research and plan out your approach to teaching concepts ahead of time in order to have a successful day as a teacher, you need to take the time learn the nuts and bolts of the bureaucratic hierarchy of your job in order to have not just a successful day, but successful years as an educator.

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