Literature Review Chapter: literature on Teacher Certification and its impact on Student Achievement

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[. . .] , 2017). With such knowledge, teachers are better placed to help students construct knowledge and relate classroom concepts with the real world.

Research has demonstrated that teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge can positively affect students’ learning outcomes compared to content knowledge or pedagogical knowledge alone. For example, in their study of 158 biology teachers in Germany, Juttner et al. (2013) show that measuring teachers’ competence based on PCK principles can positively influence student learning. Similar findings have been reported elsewhere (Karatas et al., 2017; Merk, et al., 2017). Nevertheless, the link between PCK and student learning is a relatively new area of research, hence the need for more research.

Education Reforms

Before the 1950s, the federal government was not closely involved in teacher preparation (Schuster, 2012). With increased government financing over time, however, the involvement increased. The involvement was especially driven by a report published by UNESCO in 1966 calling upon governments to recognize teaching as a profession (Grimmett, Young & Lessard, 2012). The UNESCO report led to shifts in teacher education, particularly from a policy perspective. Ever since, policymakers throughout the world have paid greater attention to teaching professionalization. Tons of education reform reports have strongly emphasized the need for reforming teacher preparation programs to ensure quality teaching (Waddell & Vartuli, 2015). As explained by Mueller (2012), effective education reform must ensure “well-prepared, skilled teachers” (p. 1).

While there is general consensus that quality teaching is integral to student learning, there have been two conflicting views on how to produce quality teachers. These conflicting perspectives have led to divergent education reform agendas, with one side advocating for professionalization and the other one advocating for deregulation. From the professionalization perspective, teaching is similar to other professions such as medicine and law, hence the need for professional certification (Grimmett, Young & Lessard, 2012). This perspective advocates for formal education, fulfillment of rigorous teaching requirements, undergraduate or post-baccalaureate training, teacher preparation programs, and professional development. In the U.S., many states have teaching certification systems requiring teachers to fulfill a series of requirements, with bodies such as the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) supporting increased teaching requirements.

The introduction of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act in 2001 particularly marked tremendous shifts in teacher certification in the U.S. The legislation introduced tougher requirements for candidates wishing to teach core subjects (Monk, 2015), and required teachers to be “highly qualified” (Heilig, Cole & Springel, 2011, p. 390). More specifically, the legislation required teachers to have an undergraduate degree on the minimum, state certification, and competence in subject matter. Only teachers with those qualifications would be hired by state governments. Teachers were required to become “highly qualified” by 2006 (Schuster, 2012), but little had been achieved by the end of the set deadline (Grimmett, Young & Lessard, 2012). Even so, the legislation marked an instrumental step in the push for the professionalization of teaching. By raising requirements for teaching, the legislation would presumably end the employment of non-certified or under-qualified teachers in public schools.

Nonetheless, the legislation mainly emphasized subject matter knowledge and introduced constraints in teacher certification (Townsend, 2014). This was one of the major shortcomings of the legislation. By emphasizing subject matter knowledge, the NCLB gave little attention to pedagogy and curriculum. This resulted in a narrower view of teaching accountability in which teaching effectiveness was measured by the ability to pass tests as opposed to more meaningful aspects such as teacher characteristics. Schuster (2012) also criticizes NCLB’s attention to content knowledge, pre-service tests, and experience, contending that such measures are not necessarily useful indicators of teaching quality. Another shortcoming of the NCLB stemmed from the fact that it empowered higher learning institutions to be accountable for their graduates’ test score, an aspect that eventually widened inequality (Grimmett, Young & Lessard, 2012). In the end, NCLB critics turned out to be right as the legislation was replaced in 2015 by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The deregulation perspective on the other hand equates teaching with occupations like journalism, hence no need for professional certification (Grimmett, Young & Lessard, 2012). This perspective advocates for lesser teaching coursework requirements, lower barriers to entry to the teaching profession, alternative teaching licensure, more emphasis on content knowledge as opposed to teaching coursework, and greater flexibility in hiring teachers. Proponents of deregulation basically advocate for self-regulation (Townsend, 2014). Self-regulation means little involvement of state governments in teacher preparation. Under self regulation, governance of the profession would be done by bodies with membership drawn from the profession. This approach has been used in countries such as Scotland and Canada (Grimmett, Young & Lessard, 2012).

For deregulation proponents, the most crucial factors that influence student achievement are factors that have to do with teachers (Grimmett, Young & Lessard, 2012). Based on this premise, proponents argue, the focus of policy should be more on luring and retaining candidates with certain characteristics and candidates who can work in certain schools as opposed to qualification requirements that have little to do with teaching effectiveness. In a self-regulatory system, attention is paid to getting the right individuals for the teaching profession, developing the individuals into effective teachers, and ensuring every student has access to competent instruction. Proponents of deregulation hold the view that achieving this under the professionalization perspective is quite difficult (Townsend, 2014). Indeed, as noticeable in other professions, a substantial portion of training occurs in real-world contexts. Following from this argument, individuals with teaching talent can learn teaching skills on the job (in a real-life teaching setting). This perspective has formed the basis for alternative certification paths (Grimmett, Young & Lessard, 2012). On the whole, education reform within the context of teacher certification has degenerated into a debate of professionalization versus deregulation, with proponents of professionalization on one hand advocating for traditional certification and proponents of deregulation on the other hand advocating for alternative certification.

Traditional Certification

Prior to joining the teaching profession, one must be awarded a teaching certificate or license by the state. Traditionally, teacher certification programs are administered by colleges and universities (Townsend, 2014). Some programs, however, are administered by school districts or non-profit organizations. Regardless of where it is provided, a teacher certification program is aimed at equipping pre-service teachers with the skills and knowledge required to effectively plan lessons, instruct students, manage student behavior, and to evaluate student performance (Schuster, 2012).

In traditional teacher certification, candidates first earn a bachelor’s education degree at a state-approved college or university (Uriegas, Kupczynski & Mundy, 2014). The candidate chooses a major based on the candidate’s preference for subject or grade level. For example, a candidate who desires to teach preschool to 5th grade students should major in elementary education, whereas a candidate wishing to teach at the high school level should major in their preferred subject (e.g. science, math, or history). After completing undergraduate education, the candidate undertakes a teacher preparation program – a program whose aim is to complement the major pursued in college. The teacher preparation program may be pursued alongside the undergraduate degree or upon finishing the degree. The next step involves an internship. Though internship periods vary one state to another, candidates are generally required to undertake at least 15 weeks of practical teaching (Teacher Certification Degrees, 2017).

The internship is followed by a series of Praxis tests. Typically, candidates are required to pass three Praxis tests (Teacher Certification Degrees, 2017). One of the tests is the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators. This test is designed to evaluate a candidate’s reading, writing, and math skills. Another test is the Praxis Subject Assessments test, which is designed to assess a candidate’s general teaching skills as well as their knowledge of the subject they wish to teach. The third test is the Praxis Content Knowledge for Teaching Assessments test. The purpose of this test is to appraise the candidate’s knowledge of specialized content and how effectively the candidate can apply the knowledge in real world practice. After passing these tests, one can then apply for certification (Jang & Horn, 2017). Candidates’ criminal history must also be examined before a teaching license is finally awarded.

Advocates of traditional certification argue that formal certification programs take potential teachers through wide-ranging training that focus on not only subject matter knowledge, but also other equally critical areas such as pedagogy and child development (Brinkman, 2014). This intensive preparation is intended to produce highly qualified teachers, which ultimately influences student achievement. Nonetheless, traditional certification programs are not without limitations. For instance, traditional certification programs have been criticized for locking out talented individuals from the teaching profession, hence aggravating challenges such as teaching workforce shortages (Kim, 2015; Mueller, 2012). Increased criticism of traditional certification has seen the emergence of alternative certification.

Alternative Certification

Alternative programs have emerged over time to help candidates who did not undertake the traditional path earn a teaching certificate (Townsend, 2014). Many… [END OF PREVIEW]

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