I am responding to your Sept. 8 editorial titled "Prescription for better teaching?" It is an attractive and simplistic notion that teachers will teach better if they don't worry about all of that "pedagogical stuff." After all, anyone can teach if they just know their content is the hidden implication.
Your editorial statements make some fallacious conclusions that need amending. First, at many institutions, including Brigham Young University, a secondary-education student does not major in secondary education. He/she must complete a major in an academic area.In addition to the academic major, the student completes a secondary certification program. And for all of the critics and complainers, approximately half of the program consists of courses in foundations, methodology, cultural diversity and in-struc-tional/-cur-ric-u-lar practices.
The other half of the program is student teaching. Incidentally, most of these are required for accreditation. There is not an abundance of underqualified teachers out there or irrelevant hoops that they have to jump through.
Second, you refer to New Jersey's attempt to open the gates of the teaching profession and let individuals avoid the professional preparation that colleges and universities have imposed. The research is coming in about that program and similar ones such as Teach for America, and it is not encouraging.
The dropouts from these programs are not asking for more courses in history, mathematics and language arts. They are asking how to discipline and manage a class of students, how to plan for meaningful and worthwhile instruction, how to develop a productive classroom where students can learn and teachers can teach and how to motivate students by providing for a variety in teaching and learning.
Third, the Utah State Office of Education has been very helpful in ensuring that teachers are certified and endorsed in their respective teaching assignments. As a former administrator in the public schools, I regularly had to ascertain that we did not misassign individuals to classes for which they were not prepared. Additionally, the State Office of Education regularly ensures that teachers are prepared and experienced in the requirements for successful teaching.
Fourth, states that have delayed their teacher certification programs have also lost a lot of qualified and deserving candidates. It is very difficult to ask a student to complete four years of college and then return for a fifth year when salaries and incentives hardly make it advantageous.
I believe that a quick call to the State Office of Education would indicate that a majority of professional teachers have a fifth year and/or master's degree completed. Requiring it before teaching would only be a professional and financial burden.
Finally, Utah has one of the best-kept secrets. The teachers in Utah already do an incredible job. Instead of insinuating that our teachers are ill-prepared or inadequately assigned, we should be applauding their successes and achievements.
Utah recently reported again that student testing results were outstanding and complimentary. A lot of the credit goes to teachers who are excellent and dedicated, if not recognized or adequately appreciated.
You would be better served to applaud Utah teachers than to make arguments that truly are faulty. Hooray for Utah's teachers. That should be the message in your editorial.
J. Merrell Hansen
Brigham Young University