Move carefully on teacher certification

West Virginia has a shortage of public school teachers qualified on paper to do their jobs. Eliminating some of the red tape at least partially responsible for that problem makes sense.

In doing so, state officials should take care not to open the field of teaching to people who are not qualified in reality to handle such work.

State Board of Education members are considering changes in policies regarding how people can be certified to teach school. Though the proposed amendments are complex, some involve whether potential teachers can demonstrate knowledge of content they want to teach.

One suggested change would exempt college graduates with certain grade-point averages from having to pass basic knowledge tests in order to become certified. Another would allow holders of master’s degrees with “five years of directly related work experience” to teach without passing tests on knowledge of the subjects in which they hold advanced degrees.

Also under consideration are other new policies and programs, including the state Department of Education offering online courses teachers could use to renew their certificates. Currently, they must take college classes to do so. That requirement would stay in place for those wishing to use advanced education to earn higher pay.

Though teachers without appropriate state certification are not a problem in our area, they are in some other regions of the state.

Technically, they are not qualified to teach the subjects or grade levels to which they have been assigned.

It makes sense to eliminate bureaucratic nonsense from teacher certification. To the extent the proposed policy changes would do this, they should be adopted.

But there is a reason tests to ensure teachers have the knowledge necessary to go to work were established in the first place. If some other reliable method of ensuring they have the requisite skills can be devised, fine.

However, there simply have to be safeguards to ensure that doing away with the current testing and paperwork does not result in a crop of teachers qualified on paper — but not in reality — to teach our children.

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