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Teaching Section 2016
Great Teaching Schools 2016

Understanding the most empowering but least understood role of an educator in America

Can good teaching be taught? It’s an age-old question that explores whether a true educator needs to innately posses the gift of teaching or whether this skill can be learnt over time. Experts still find it difficult to determine the answer. Yet one thing has become increasingly clear in recent years: there is now a greater emphasis than ever on improving the quality of training, qualifications and incentives for the people at the heart of the diverse American education system; the teachers.

The U.S. Labor Department predicts that the teaching sector will grow 6% by the year 2024. The demand for teachers continues to grow across the board, as a recent report by the Learning Policy Institute reveals worrying statistics regarding the number of unprepared and underqualified teachers who are hastily assigned to some schools to assuage widening shortages in several states.

To combat this issue, the Department of Education has put into gear several initiatives aimed at improving teacher preparation in the US.  Seen in its 2016 ‘Notice of Final Rulemaking’ revision of the Teacher Preparation Regulations, which will strengthen teacher preparation programs nationwide, their intention is for novice teachers and undergraduate teaching majors to be better prepared for the challenging demands both within and outside of the classroom setting.

There’s no better time than the present to become a teacher: a vibrant and richly-rewarding career that puts graduates at the forefront of nation-building and social change. The journey is not as simple as just taking a test.  While courses provide the right support and training, it is also the beginning of a process that will cultivate people with an instinct for teaching.

Becoming a certified teacher is subject to a minimum requirement of a bachelor’s degree in the subject or field the candidate aspires to teach. To become eligible to work as an elementary, middle, or secondary teacher at a public school, candidates first need to apply for certification—also called licensing or teacher’s credentials—from their state of choice, since teachers’ certification is state-issued rather than federal.  Most states now approve programs that help professionals who already have bachelor’s degrees to attain this certification, via an accelerated process marked by volunteering opportunities and other diverse practical training options.

A teacher’s journey to state certification

The traditional route to teaching certification is subject to the requirements and testing methods within individual states’ certification programs determined by their respective board of education. However there are many similarities within the typical process to become an increasingly competent educator, beginning from an undergraduate degree through to acquiring that state-issued teacher’s certification, and even further if desired, up to national-level accreditation.

  1. Bachelor’s Degree

In any state, the basic requirement to apply for a teacher’s license is a bachelor’s degree, the major of which should match the grade (elementary, middle or secondary) and subject the applicant wishes to teach. At this stage it’s important to choose a reliable teaching institution with a good track record, preferably an institution that’s been accredited by bodies such as The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), a professional accreditation body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

  1. Teacher Preparation Program

Some universities and colleges offer a teacher preparation program as part of a bachelor’s degree, such that both are completed and acquired simultaneously.  In some other cases, candidates may complete the teacher preparation program after having completed their bachelor’s degree.

  1. Practical Training

The final requirement of any certification program usually requires candidates to complete a 15-week semester of student teaching. The exact duration of this practical training depends on the individual state’s requirements and on the type of teacher’s certification the candidate seeks.

  1. Passing Individual State’s Testing and Other Requirements for Educators

With the exceptions of Arizona, Florida, New Mexico and Illinois; all states in U.S. and U.S. territories of Guam, American Samoa and Virgin Islands use the Praxis series of exams, which include standardized tests on core academic skills, subject assessments, and other areas in approximately 3 to 4 components, again varying according to state.

  1. Applying for Certification

Having completed the aforementioned steps, there is still a rigorous set of checks in place to ensure the candidate’s viability for a teaching position. For most states, a passing score on the state examinations for educators will then warrant a fingerprint and background check to verify the candidates’ citizenship, and to ensure they have no past or present criminal record.

  1. Renewal of Certification

The first teaching certificate that a candidate receives will usually be valid between 1 and 5 years, after which renewal must take place every few years. For some states, renewal is dependent upon completing more requirements, ranging from additional coursework, to a certain number of professional hours or even graduate studies.

  1. Higher qualification

Not surprisingly, there are added benefits—not the least of which are higher salaries and more extensive teaching opportunities—that come with successfully undertaking the rigorous process of peer-reviewed certification that demands several other experience-based requirements. This will earn teachers a National Board Certification, awarded by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.

Beyond mastering tests in content knowledge and collecting numerous teaching hours, teachers awarded the National Board Certification will have proved their competence in leadership.  They will have successfully engaged with other educators, academics and community members, to design lessons and identify assessments that not only promote learning outcomes, but re-inspire previously trite and ineffective teaching practices, while adding greater depth, discussion and improvement to pedagogy as a whole.

The right foundations

If the entire scope of becoming a teaching seems a challenging feat with multiple overlapping job dimensions, it’s because it truly is. Ideally the nation requires nothing less of its school teachers and administrators. That’s why selecting the best training programs from outstanding teaching schools can put fledging teaching candidates on the right path as they begin their eclectic journey into the hearts and minds of America’s learners today.


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