A few years ago I was one of the authors of a white paper in opposition to the New York State Regents proposal to allow alternate certification for school administrators. The idea was that individuals who had a history of leadership in areas outside of education – the military or business, for example – could be fast tracked to becoming certified as school superintendents.
Writing as a member of the New York State Association for Women in Administration, I was concerned that fast tracking these “outsiders” would exacerbate the gender discrepancy that already existed when it came to the superintendency. In a state where roughly 75% of teachers were women, they constituted less than a quarter of the state’s superintendents. Military or business leaders would also tend to be male. Most women entered administration later than their male counterparts and tended to work their way through various chairs until they reached the superintendency. While agreeing that leaders in business and the military could bring experience, skill, and a different point of view to the profession, my colleagues and I believed that fast tracking them was inherently unfair and detrimental to women.
The idea was eventually dropped. In its place appeared another alternative -- online degrees in education administration. Without ever having to work on a project with school administrators, interact with professors with experience in the field, or participate in an internship, an individual could become certified as a school administrator.
Currently under consideration are proposals for an increase in alternate programs to train teachers for the classroom. The New York Times reports that programs like Teach for America and N.Y.C. Teaching Fellows attract young professionals wanting to change careers and have managed to “rebrand teaching as both sexy and noble.” Some say the difference between these alternate programs and traditional college programs is that the former relies on practice while the latter relies on theory.
Clearly there could be many viable paths to becoming an educator. Yesterday I wondered if the current upheaval in education would make young people think twice before entering the profession. But maybe now that it’s sexy and noble, we don’t have to worry.