By Kara Karlson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 13, 2005
Arizona finally has something to brag about when it comes to education, and it's not being consistently ranked near the bottom of the list when it comes to nationwide comparisons of the state of education.
While students may be delighted that the tables have shifted a little, it should be the taxpayers calling it payback, as they might finally be getting their money's worth out of Arizona's education system.
Although Arizona currently ranks last in per-pupil spending, the state still spends an average of $7,800, according to 2001-2002 Arizona Department of Education reports.
Compare this to private high schools that charge an average of $5,500 tuition, many of which already have this advanced level of teacher testing.
I went to a private high school in Chandler, where they videotaped the teacher in the classroom and had administrators sit in on classes.
Why didn't state policy makers think of this sooner? Well, they had.
The idea for this program was hatched 10 years ago. But it was not implemented until the No Child Left Behind Act forced the state to face the fact that you can't blame it all on the students.
Not that Arizona does not have some very good teachers in both public and private schools. Still, this state has some of the easiest standards in the country when it comes to certification.
For the most part all a teacher used to have to do to get certified is be able to tolerate a classroom setting without having a nervous breakdown (and not have sex with one of his or her pupils). If this individual were able to do this for three years, he or she would receive a teaching certificate.
The new standards would require teachers beginning their career as of 2006 to submit written material and a video of the teacher teaching in a classroom setting to be evaluated by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.
Teachers nationwide can apply for the honor of National Board Certification, but it is a completely voluntary process.
Arizona will be the first state to enact an education policy that recognizes that even perfect pupils who want to be good students can only learn as much as they are taught. How much they are taught depends on how well the teacher is able to convey the material and manage the classrooms.
These skills are the abilities that the review board will be evaluating in the videotapes.
"I like the idea of seeing the lesson plan, seeing the teachers teach in the classroom before they get certified," said Joelle De La Vara, a UA elementary education junior.
Hopefully these steps will raise the "D–" Arizona received from Education Week for the minimal effort it had previously put in to try to raise teaching effectiveness.
However, considering that Arizona eighth-grade students currently rank 43rd in the country, it is apparent that it is not only new teachers freshly graduated from the UA that should undergo this rigorous certification procedure.
All teachers should have to reapply for certification because, up until this point, the current teachers - not the ones who still need to graduate - have been the ones leading the Arizona classrooms to failure.
Furthermore, newly graduated teachers should not be the ones paying the $390 fee associated with the testing. Arizona pays some of the lowest teaching salaries, and the testing fee places a severe financial burden on individuals who could be fantastic teachers.
Taxpayer dollars would be better spent invested in ensuring the state has qualified teachers than paying the salary for an incompetent one.
"I think paying $400 to get certified is too much. I want to know where that money would be going," De La Vara said.
What exactly would that $390 fee pay for? If it goes to pay for the National Teacher's Board review, we should look to cheaper, in-house methods.
An in-state independent review board is one potentially cheaper alternative. Volunteers from the education community like retired teachers, college professors, administrators and even a few students could give a comprehensive assessment of a teacher's skill by watching the videotape.
It would cost the state and new teachers less money, while still improving the standards of teaching throughout the state.
Kara Karlson is a journalism senior. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.