Texas Embraces Competitive Certification, Unions Object Loudly

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A promising new plan in Texas might help the state to tap into a new source of qualified teachers--if it can survive the fierce opposition of the Texas colleges of education, Texas State Teachers Association, Texas Federation of Teachers, and Texas Classroom Teachers Association, among other entrenched interests.

The rule--which narrowly passed with a 5-4 vote of the State Board for Educator Certification--would allow prospective high school teachers with a bachelor's degree to be hired by a school district provided they pass a state certification test and demonstrate subject matter knowledge. The measure devolves hiring power to the local level with principals and school administrators making the judgment on who is qualified to teach.

Schools of education are completely cut out of the deal and, not surprisingly, are crying foul. But this dramatic move away from what SBEC member Jim Windham calls the "one size fits all, input-and compliance-driven approach" could attract a lot of new, subject-matter competent teachers into Texas. This is of the utmost importance in a state where around 20% of certified teachers have little or no formal education in their subject area.

The new rule prevails only if the state board of education does not reconsider it within 90 days. That deadline will require the board to convene a special meeting--which, judging by the press this decision got, seems pretty likely.