Calls for wrapping adjuncts in red tape

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Last month, the Bush Administration proposed an Adjunct Teacher Corps to alleviate math and science teacher shortages. In theory, the program could open up a whole new source of teachers--though we are still trying to figure out how far the paltry $25 million the Administration asked for will go.

The usual suspects are already crying foul at the notion that the U.S. Department of Education might grant these folks an exemption from having to be "highly qualified" under the rules of No Child Left Behind. Barnett Berry of the Center for Teaching Quality, for example, suggests that an exemption might be motivated by a miserly attitude because "a better-prepared teacher is in the long run more expensive."

Requiring these folks to be HQT would indeed mean that they would have to either be certified or in pursuit of certification. However, that requirement would also be a sure-fire way to snuff out any real potential in the initiative. The practicing scientist or computer whiz might well be willing to teach a class at the local high school but not if he or she also has to devote evenings as well to taking courses towards certification.

If professionals want to teach a class or two a week in adjunct positions, there is nothing to gain by making it difficult for them, unless 1)there's proof that they will be any less effective due to their uncertified status than the alternative--which there is not; and 2) alternatives in fact are available--which there are not--which is why this program is on offer.

Courses listed on a transcript, be they from an ed school or a math department never provide assurance someone knows how to teach. Let school principals, who have more motivation to hire good teachers than any official at the state department of education, decide which candidates are suitable. Then give them and their schools the funds available for this important experiment, so that the money can be directed exclusively to on-the- ground training and support.