Americans increasingly agree that the gateway into teaching ought to be a whole lot tougher. Findings released this week from Gallup/ PDK's annual education poll indicate that six in ten Americans recognize that entry standards into teacher preparation aren't rigorous enough. Fully eight in ten think teachers should have to pass some sort of bar exam. That could be read as a public endorsement of AFT's 2012 testing proposal, except that sensible idea's only purpose was to serve as the guts of a fiery Weingarten speech.
The only time you find that kind of consensus is on the subject of ice cream, or maybe bacon. The message from these latest poll numbers is crystal clear: the public thinks teacher prep needs fixing. As NCTQ has been banging this drum for a decade now (and for many of those years, as a solo act), the numbers come as very, very heartening news. It's not good news that we have a teacher prep problem, but as we all know, the first step to fixing any problem is to acknowledge its existence. Can we agree to roll up our sleeves?
Other less heartening news earlier this month came from Missouri, when we asked the Show Me state to, "Show us their course syllabi" under the state's sunshine law, and the answer was an emphatic NO. To be accurate, the University of Missouri System said no and on August 26, an appellate court agreed that course syllabi are indeed exempt from the state's sunshine laws. The oddly reasoned argument concluded that the syllabi are copyrighted and don't have to be shown to anyone. "Huh?" we asked. Copyright or not, there's this thing called the "fair use" provision of American copyright law which allows someone to study copyrighted materials as long as they don't profit from them. Bad news for NCTQ, but worse news for a free press and public transparency.
So now we'll be heading to the Missouri Supreme Court. University of Missouri professor Mike Podgursky and long-time NCTQ booster was outraged by his own institution's obfuscation and bravely said so in an op-ed (he may have tenure, but he does have to share the Mizzou sidewalks). That led to another Missouri ed professor labeling our decision a "bully" move. I know I'm biased, but it seems to me an utterly reasonable act. The issue of NCTQ having the right to review course syllabi has been settled in our favor in eight of nine states, including by a Minnesota appellate court. There's nothing unique about Missouri in this case.
In any event, I'm not in a bullying frame of mind, nor even a litigious one. The whole business (even if reasonable) is distasteful. The problem we face is not of any single institution's making, but a systematic problem that needs to be acknowledged. We can all contribute to its solution.