Thursday, August 22, 2002

Out of Field

In this story from the Commercial Appeal, via the Associated Press, a study by the Education Trust reports that 36%, that's one in three, teachers in Tennessee are teaching subjects they haven't studied. That is, a teacher may be put into an "out of field" class because:
In many cases, the problem arises when a full-time teacher does
not have the full five-course load in his field. Rather than hiring
another part-time teacher, a principal might ask this teacher to
take additional classes in a different subject.

"You're not going to let that teacher get away with just three
classes," he said. "You're going to try and stretch your teacher
resources to cover the wide variety of things that have to be

The story largely focuses on the rates of "out of field" teaching at various levels of schools and in various states. But the report itself is focused on "classes in high poverty and high-minority schools." While most parents are concerned about unqualified teachers not serving students, the Education Trust is more concerned with this phenomenon's effect on the poor and minorities. It's a point not mentioned in the article, but one that the Education Trust exists to address, coloring the report and its findings.

It's interesting that the report's first warning is that their findings are not the result of mismanagement by principals, but "school district regulations concerning minimal education requirements for new hires." In other words, non-teacher people competent in their subjects cannot be allowed to teach without first obtaining certification as teachers. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that folks who have years of exerience in the working world, but who want to teach out of a sense of civic responsibility, are blocked from getting into schools. Teacher's unions and teaching schools first want to indoctrinate these folks in their teaching theories and development models, rather than assisting them in the classroom and letting them learn as they go.

The study has many interesting recommendations, not touched on in the article. It's a good read for parents who worry about their schools and teachers.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

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