Campion: A master's degree is enough for teaching high school

Posted

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- A local representative is introducing legislation that would waive the requirement of teacher certification for high school educators holding a master's degree in the content area they teach.

The idea is supported by a number of studies that show little progression is made in regard to teaching ability from college education courses.

"The Hamilton Report and other recent studies have shown our teacher preparation programs aren't necessarily making big strides in improving teachers and really preparing teachers as well as they could be prepared," Bennington Rep. Brian Campion said at Monday's legislative breakfast with local school officials.

"The research shows that if you graduate and you want to be in that classroom but you don't have a degree in teaching, going and paying for a year's teacher preparation program does not make the difference we all thought it would," Campion said. "Really what does make a difference is wanting to be there, having a good mentor and getting a lot of feedback."

The bill, H. 687, is one of three the Democrat in his second year on the House Education Committee will introduce to the committee this week. All three are based on The Hamilton Project, produced by the Brookings Institute, and are aimed to "improve teacher retention, bring more people into the profession, as well as start a conversation around teacher education reform." The other two proposed bills have to do with requiring additional mentoring and assessment of new teachers.

Campion said some people are good at teaching and do not need the courses required to become certified, and research shows that others who take the courses may not be good at teaching even after they complete them.

"Talent is talent and if you walk into a teacher preparation program as a talented individual, you're going to leave it as a talented individual. And if you start and you're not so talented, you're not going to be that talented as a teacher," Campion said.

H. 687 also begins a conversation about why education courses are not better preparing future teachers.

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"We are investing a lot of money in our state colleges to train teachers. If we're not doing it effectively we have to make a change, and that is what this, I hope, is getting at," Campion said. "In a way this is just going to start a conversation."

In addition to a belief that a person holding a master's is as capable of teaching the subject at a high school level, the bill has other purposes that include increasing the number of teachers in Vermont and keeping teachers in the state.

Campion said people who get their teacher certification in Vermont often teach in the state for a few years before moving leaving for a higher paying position out of state. By allowing people who are uncertified professionals to teach in Vermont it may attract individuals with master's degrees who would like to teach but do not want to do an additional year of college to become certified. Those people would not be able to then leave to take a teaching position elsewhere without becoming certified.

"What I don't want Vermont to become is a breeding ground for teachers who want to try teaching, get experience and then leave as a certified teacher," Campion said.

The second bill Campion is introducing, H. 685, requires all new teachers to be assigned a mentor for their first two years. The bill is similar to one that passed last year requiring principals to be mentored at the start of their careers. The bill places responsibility on districts to allocate money for any additional costs for mentors.

Another bill authored by Campion, H. 688, around increasing assessments required of new teachers includes what Campion called an arbitrary number of seven times a teacher would be assessed during each of their first two years. Assessments would be conducted by anyone from school administrators, teachers, and students, Campion said.

"This kind of feedback is what young teachers, new teachers, really want and need," Campion said.

Data shows the first two years is when a teacher can make the greatest improvements so it is important they receive the necessary feedback through assessments and mentoring.

One of the authors of The Hamilton Project is Douglas Staiger, a professor of economics at Dartmouth University who will testify about the findings in the report before the House Education Committee Wednesday.

Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at draspuzzi@benningtonbanner.com


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