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Texas AFT Supports “Bar Exam” for Teaching Profession

GRAPHIC: Read the AFT report on its proposal, http://www.aft.org/pdfs/highered/raisingthebar2012.pdf.
GRAPHIC: Read the AFT report on its proposal, http://www.aft.org/pdfs/highered/raisingthebar2012.pdf.
December 11, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas - A new proposal by a leading teachers' union would create standardized certification procedures for the profession, including a testing requirement similar to the bar exam that would-be lawyers have to pass. Education advocates are increasingly endorsing teacher-accountability plans as beneficial to students and teachers alike, according to Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin, which is part of the American Federation of Teachers.

Too often, he says, new instructors are simply unprepared to lead their classrooms, contributing to a public perception that the system overlooks ineffective teachers.

"Nobody wants to have bad employees. What's important is to grow them and nurture them to see that we have the best employees. Because you don't step out of college being the best teacher. You learn that. You develop that."

Zarifis was the Texas representative on the task force that created the teacher-preparation proposal. The recommendations now go to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which will set up examination procedures that states will be encouraged to follow. Currently, certification requirements vary widely from state to state.

Zarifis says unions and other education advocates are open-minded about many reform proposals, including increased evaluation of established teachers, but, he thinks, ramped-up scrutiny is just part of the equation. It's fine to expect more from teachers, he explains, as long as teachers can count on more public support for their profession.

"[Which is] arguably the most important profession we can think of: to bring on the new generation, to give them the foundation to be those doctors and lawyers and engineers and nurses and whatever it happens to be."

Teacher pay, he says, has flat-lined in the modern era, compared with that of other respected professionals.

Other task-force recommendations include minimum grade-point averages and SAT scores from potential teachers, as well as portfolio requirements that would document mastery of specific subjects. The final licensing examination would come after a year of student teaching.

Read the AFT report on its proposal here.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX