Charter Schools and Future Teachers

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Now that Betsy DeVos has been confirmed as the Secretary of Education, questions about how she will run the Department will soon be answered. What is clear from her past advocacy work and Senate confirmation hearing is that she strongly supports school choice and the expansion of public charter schools.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools authorized to operate, often with significant flexibility and autonomy, in return for specific performance goals. They tend to be given wide latitude in determining curriculum, requiring teacher certification, or not, and managing operations.

Forty-two states permit charter schools to operate and the demand for charter schools has risen steadily over the past decade. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, between school years 2003-04 and 2013-14, the percentage of all public schools that were public charter schools increased from 3.1 to 6.6 percent, and the total number of public charter schools increased from 3,000 to 6,500.

So what does the potential for more charter expansion mean for the training of future teachers?

Likely, not very much.

Decisions on teacher licensure requirements and certification are made at the state -- not federal -- level. And, according to Education Commission of the States, a majority of states (29, including DC) require charter school teachers to be certified just like teachers in traditional public schools.

So in most cases, even in public charter schools, teachers will need to be certified.

In those states that do not require certification, a number do require that a percentage of teachers in every school be certified (such as Connecticut, Indiana, and North Carolina). Still other states require other qualifications for uncertified teachers in charters. Illinois, for example, has these requirements: a bachelor's degree, five years experience in the area of degree, a passing score on state teacher tests, and evidence of professional growth. Mentoring must be provided to uncertified teachers as well.

But whether you are permitted to teach in a school without training is a different question from whether you should.

Regardless of whether you intend to teach in a traditional school or a public charter school, a strong teacher preparation program is still extremely important to ensuring you are prepared for the challenge of being a teacher from day one. Such a program will make certain you know what you need to teach -- like the methodology for reading instruction. It will provide invaluable classroom experience via a well-designed student teaching program in which you are paired with an effective and capable mentor. It will inform you on essential classroom management techniques.

Students in all public schools -- traditional or charter school -- deserve highly qualified and well prepared teachers every day of school, including the teacher's first.

--Curtis Valentine and Rob Rickenbrode