Lawmakers weigh streamlining interim teaching certificates

Capital News Service

LANSING — Lawmakers are considering a proposal to  make it easier for people with a bachelor’s degree to teach full-time while working toward standard teaching certification.

The proposal was approved in the Senate and is pending in the House Education Reform Committee. It would remove some requirements for alternative certification programs that grant interim teaching certificates.

“The intent of the bill is to get more teachers into the classroom,” said Brad Wever, an aide to bill sponsor Sen.Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair.

Interim teaching certificates allow individuals to be a full-time teacher while continuing to work towards their teaching certification.

The bill would remove the requirement for program applicants to pass a Basic Skills Examination. As of last September, the Department of Education accepts only SAT test scores as a valid measure of those skills.

It’s ridiculous for an adult with a college degree to wait to take a test for an interim teaching certificate, said Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw, who chairs the committee and supports the bill.

Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, supports removing the basic skills test as well, but is still on the fence regarding the entire bill until he gets more information from the Department of Education regarding the accreditation of alternative certificate programs.

Current law leaves certification up to the state superintendent of public instruction. Six alt-cert programs have been approved, according to the department.

“The (Basic Skills Examination) is but one of many measures used by programs to admit teacher candidates, counsel people out, and to assure that we have quality program completers,” the Michigan Association of Colleges for Teacher Education wrote in a letter to the Senate Committee on Education Reform.

Erica House, a substitute Spanish teacher at Pontiac High School, testified in support of the bill. She has met all the requirements for the program and has to wait until March 10 to take the SAT test.

The bill is opposed by the Michigan Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, according to Beth Kubitskey, a board member of that group and an associate dean at Eastern Michigan University.

The Michigan Education Association said it fears that the quality of education provided to students will decrease if the bill passes. The MEA is the state’s largest union of teachers and other school personnel.

The proposal reduces the requirements for a teaching certification to a college degree and passing a Michigan Test for Teacher Certification, Kubitskey said. “We think that isn’t sufficient and it makes the alt-cert grossly different than the traditional certification programs.”

“Teaching is a profession,” said MEA communications consultant David Crim.

“Knowing the subject matter is one thing,” Crim said, “but there are a lot of skills that are needed to connect with kids.”

The Michigan Test for Teacher Certification provides subject-specific and grade-oriented testing for Michigan teachers. For students attaining a teaching certificate through a traditional four-year institution, test administrators  suggest that they wait to take the tests until they have finished 90 percent of their credits towards a degree.