While sitting in my Instruction and Curriculum class this Thursday, one of my classmates asked our professor, who has a law degree, what she thought about State Senate Bill 24. Our professor said she hadn’t heard about it, but that Governor Malloy seemed to be going the wrong way on education reform. She also said that the CEA and AFT would look out for the teachers and their interests. The student replied that she hadn’t heard a lot about it, except that all the teachers at her school (she has gotten a long-term sub job in New London and is the fourth teacher this year teaching her particular classes - she plans on staying there and has been there since the end of January) were complaining about how it would be impossible to keep their jobs.
Now, all this talk about Senate Bill 24 got me looking into it. This is the bill that will change the state law regarding the certification and evaluation of teachers, as well as state control over the funding of low-performance schools, access to early childhood education and the ability to allow families more of a choice of schools. For those of you who have not heard about the bill (I was one until I started researching it), here is the text of the bill (text underlined and in blue is wording being added to the current law by the bill, and text in [brackets] and in red is being deleted from the law by the bill. For those of you, like me, who DON’T like legal speak, there is a very good overview of the bill by State Senator Kevin Kelly (R-21st District).
Now, I am a big proponent of educational reform. For those of you that have read my , I feel the education system in CT, as well as the nation, is broken at the fundamental level. I have been a teacher in private schools for the past ten years. I received a DSAP (Durational Shortage Area Permit) to teach Math and Earth Science at the Secondary School (grades 7-12) level this past August. Normally, in order to teach in a public school, a teacher would need to be certified by the CT State Department of Education. This would happen after going through a teacher education program, either in a CT college or an approved college in another state. The state SDE also allows for people to become certified in CT if they have been certified in another state. However, the SDE has established a number of teacher “shortage areas” (Math, Science, Special Education, English, World Languages, Bilingual Education, etc.) where there exists a shortage of qualified teachers in these areas. For people who wish to teach in one of these areas, there are some options that can get you into the classroom faster to reduce this “shortage” of “qualified” teachers:
- They can take part in an Alternate Route to Certification which will get them certification after an accelerated program provided by the state (at significant cost to the applicant, plus the regular certification fees);
- They can get a DSAP (like I have). However, most people who get a DSAP need to ALREADY be in an approved teacher certification program so they can mentor you during your classroom teaching experience.
I was fortunate enough to have the “planned program” waived due to my teaching experience in private schools. However, when I first applied for my DSAP, though, the CT SDE DENIED my application since I was NOT in a certification program. Only by forwarding them the waiver that had been issued to me would they issue my DSAP. It is valid for one year, and the it must be renewed by the CT SDE if I have gone through education classes that I would have needed to take if I was part of an educator preparation program.
I am also trying to receive my initial certification in math and earth science. You’d figure that, given my experience (11 years as a math, science and technology teacher) and education (I have a BS in Applied Math, an MS in Geological Sciences with a concentration in Paleontology and am working on a Masters in Special Education) that the state would love to have me, right? NOPE! The bureaucracy involved in the state and the politicization of the educational system has gotten in the way. Each time I have applied for certification, the SDE has found that I needed to take some class or other, that some class I HAD taken was not good enough. Every time I apply, the state asks for more money to process my application. Here I am, a teacher who, in my 11 years of teaching, has had students who have decided they wanted to become math and science teachers. I have been told by my fellow teachers, parents and students, that kids love my classes and often come out of them with a desire to learn more. I have students who, when I was leaving my private school, asked to go to the school I was moving to.
If we have such a shortage of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math teachers, as the CT SDE claims, as President Obama claimed in the State of the Union Address, why is Gov. Malloy and the State Senate attacking teachers by using a flawed system of state testing to assess teachers? Why is it so hard for STEM teachers to get certified without shelling so much money out to the state? Why are teachers in the crosshairs when there are SO MANY OTHER PROBLEMS with our state’s educational system? I feel that Gov. Malloy has some good ideas about educational reform. We need to be proactive and fix our schools in the state. Applying for a is a good start, but we need to look at motivating our students (and teachers) to do well. We can start by eliminating those standardized tests which only take time away from educating our kids. Let’s start THERE, Gov. Malloy! Don't attack teachers during an election year, go after what's REALLY wrong with education in our state!