The Cost of Teacher Certification

Risen from the Hawaii Reporter archives (3/12/2004). The links appear as in the original. Some have expired.

Focused on the discussion of structural reform to the Department of Education, the public has heard little of a program within the DOE that threatens to degrade overall system performance more than any legislation passed since the advent of public sector unionization. At the insistence of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the Legislature over the last 10 years has built into the Hawaii Revised Statutes and into the DOE a program, the Teacher Standards Board (TSB), which will certainly raise costs and almost certainly reduce overall system performance.

Costs will rise. As the TSB Web site says:
In the recently negotiated teacher's contract, any teacher going through the certification process will be reimbursed up to $2,500 for expenses related to the process. Teachers completing the process and receiving national certification will receive $5,000 per year for the duration of the contract (2 years). Legislation is now underway to extend the differential from the current two years to the lifetime of the national certification (10 years).

This promises no performance gains:
The Education Consumers Consultants Network compared the academic improvement of Tennessee students taught by nationally-certified teachers with the improvement of all other students in the state. The data revealed that 'on the whole, the students taught by NBPTS-certified teachers gained no more than their local peers.'

This shouldn't be a surprise. NBPTS certification is really just ordinary certification on steroids -- a puffed-up assessment of teachers' mastery of conventional certification standards. Considering the large body of research finding almost no correlation between certification and teacher effectiveness, it makes sense to expect no correlation between "super-certification" and student performance. What one should expect is proportionately inflated rhetoric about the value of the certification, which is exactly what one finds.
--Education Consumers Network http://www.education-consumers.com/briefs/may2002.shtm

"No study, however, has ever shown that National Board certified teachers are any better than other teachers at raising student achievement" (Michael Podgursky, "Defrocking the National Board", commenting on the study "The Certification System of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards: A Construct and Validity Study", by Lloyd Bond, Richard Jaeger, Tracy Smith, John Hattie. http://www.educationnext.org/20012/79.html)

Robert Grey Holland details the links between the National Education Association (NEA) -- the HSTA is an NEA subsidiary -- and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in his Policy Review article "How to Build a Better Teacher"

Holland writes:
The nbpts purports to identify excellence through this process, but economists Dale Ballou of the University of Massachusetts and Michael Podgursky of the University of Missouri -- who called 'professionalization' into question after careful analysis -- point out that there has been no evidence to show that students of nbpts-certified teachers learn any more than students of other teachers.
Holland continues: principals of NBPTS teachers...
found it difficult to link any improvements in student achievement to the teachers' national certification.
The latest installment in the steady increase of the power of the TSB is a provision in the majority's "reform" bill (HB 2002) which would require that taxpayers subsidize, through the TSB, applications for National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification. Taxpayers will not benefit. The math standards of the National Board, for example, mirror those of Colleges of Education and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which disdain memorization, drill, and practice in the application of algorithms, in favor of "discovery."
In the January, 1998, Notices of the American Mathematical Society, Allyn Jackson reports her interview with Gail Burrill, President of the NCTM.:

"One small part of that report is very telling ...”

"Notices: Starting in 1968, the government funded a huge study called Project Follow-Through. It cost a billion dollars and ran almost thirty years. The purpose was to examine how different teaching methods or philosophies affected student performance. What they found was that the traditional, 'direct instruction' method was the most effective. Are you familiar with this study?

Burrill: "I have never heard of it."

Hawaii’s single, statewide school district, State-wide collective bargaining law, and the unionization of administrators up to the highest level of the DOE have created an environment where there is little difference between "management" and "labor." The taxpayers' representatives give to DOE administrators control over a $1.7 billion+/year revenue stream. Hawaii's agency-fee policy gives to the local subsidiaries of the NEA and AFSCME a guaranteed dues revenue stream of, in the case of the HSTA, over $4 million/year. An administrators' ascent of the DOE career ladder requires the assent of established interests, that is, of Russell Okata and Joan Husted. Whistle-blowers, in-house critics, and workers who would exercise their right not to support union policies threaten the control which union officers and senior DOE officials exercise over the dues-generated revenue stream and the larger DOE budget. Public sector unions and senior DOE administrators clearly benefit from Hawaii's single, Statewide school district, agency shop policy, and Statewide collective bargaining.

Collective bargaining, like a trial, is necessarily an adversarial process. Advocates make a case for the side that represents them. In a criminal trial, the prosecution represents the State and the defendant's attorney represents the accused. It is not the job of the prosecutor or the defense attorney to deliver justice. Justice is the responsibility of the process as a whole. Anyone who maintains that the adversarial process is flawed must offer an alternative. TSB legislation damages this process. Neither real classroom teachers, students, or taxpayers benefit.

Recall the history of the Teacher Standards Board. In the first year that a bill for the creation of a TSB appeared, the bill described a temporary board, which had authority to compile licensing criteria for new-hire teachers. The board was to hand these criteria to the DOE Personnel office and expire. The Board of Education (and I) testified against the creation of this TSB, limited though it was. The HSTA supported creation of the TSB. The bill failed. In the next legislative session, the Board of Education supported the TSB, the bill passed, and Governor Cayetano signed it into law. This law required first the creation of a Teacher Standards Board Planning Commission. I attended meetiings of this commission. Before even the creation of the Teacher Standards Board, the Planning Commission discussed how to extend the authority of the TSB to teachers already in service, and how to get the membership of the HSTA to accept an assessment for the privilege of being less secure in their jobs than they were before the creation of the TSB. This Board, which has since grown in size and not in wisdom, then consisted of four members from the HSTA, three from the HGEA, one from the College of Education, and one from the Board of Education. Public sector unions controlled seven of nine seats on the Board. Counting the College of Education (the UHPA is an NEA subsidiary), eight of nine.

In later sessions, members of the Teacher Standards Board and the HSTA testified in favor of legislation which repealed the sunset provision, in favor of legislation which granted to the Board authority to decertify teachers already in service, and in favor of the assessment of a fee, from teachers' salaries, for the operation of the TSB, which earlier legislation had described as a temporary, non-cost program. The Legislature ultimately approved these bills, although the TSB had not performed its primary work, the specification of teacher credential requirements. The TSB named former HSTA President Sharon Mahoe to an $80,000/year position as Executive Director.

The licensing requirements composed by the Board are too loose to merit the name "standards." The Board requires that new-hire teachers have degrees from accredited Colleges of Education. No statistical, empirical research supports such a requirement. The Board requires that teachers keep abreast of current instructional techniques. Five years ago, that would have meant that reading teachers use Whole Language methods or risk dismissal. The U.H. College of Education still advocates the NCTM's Whole Math methodology and disdains memorization. The Board requires that teachers in service align instruction to Hawaii's content and performance standards. The problem here is that the content and performance standards to which this teacher standard then referred were those contained in the Final Report of the Hawaii State Commission on Performance Standards (the "Blue Book"), since abandoned as hopelessly complicated and vague. My point here is that the members of the TSB would not know a standard if you dropped one on their toes. One "standard" for Math teachers requires that they present a systematic sequence of instruction, another that teachers accommodate variations in students' interests and abilities, and a third that teachers remain alert to opportunities to introduce current events into instruction. These are all good ideas, but they are contradictory and cannot all be "standards." The TSB requires that teachers keep abreast of developments in their field. This is impossible for most math and physics teachers. It is unnecessary for almost all teachers. A teacher who knows what K. F. Gauss knew 150 years ago could teach high-school Math and Physics. Fifty year-old dissertations on colonial archaeology or Melville scholarship are as informative as current research in these areas.

"In a major report on how schools could meet the challenge in the No Child Left Behind Act to have a 'highly qualified' teacher in every classroom by the end of the 2005-2006 school year, the Secretary of Education cited in an approving way Abel's debunking of the ed-school-is-essential research (Secretary's Annual Report, 2002). Indeed, the report also commended the work of economists Dan Goldhaber and Dominic Brewer, who found that contrary to conventional wisdom, mathematics and science students who have teachers with emergency credentials do no worse than students whose teachers have standard teaching credentials, all else being equal." [Robert Grey Holland, How to Build a Better Teacher, p. 51]. This is a book of the same title as his Policy Review article.

The TSB has advanced counterproductive ("Utilizes the school's current technologies to facilitate learning in the content area(s)"), unnecessary (e.g., College of Education degrees), contradictory ("Plans and implements logical, sequenced instruction and continually adjusts plans based on learner needs" and "Connects knowledge of content area(s) to students’ prior experiences, personal interests and real-life situations.") or vague ("Fosters an appreciation of human and cultural differences") standards. The TSB has demonstrated indifference to improving the teacher workforce. Why, then, did the HSTA so strenuously promote the TSB?

Unions, even "public sector" unions, are -- private -- 501-c(5) corporations. Their assets are the property of their members and their legal obligations are to members and agency-fee payers. Sometimes unions, like other organizations, get captured by insiders, who bend the institution to their interests. Hawaii's public sector unions survive on their dues-generated revenue stream. They enhance their power by promoting or retarding people's ascent of the DOE career ladder. Control of a $1.7 billion+/year revenue stream is a valuable asset in itself. Contractors will hire your nitwit nephew. Your incompetent son-in-law will get a $50,000 do-nothing consulting contract. This is what is at stake in the HSTA/HGEA/UPW cartel's ability to terminate the employment of dissident employees.

The US Supreme Court has ruled that:

1. Workers in an agency-fee shop situation may be
compelled to pay no more than the cost of collective bargaining and contract enforcement (Communication Workers of America versus Beck. 487 US 735 (1988)).
2. The procedure whereby the employer deducts from the employee's pay the equivalent of dues, and the union sometime later gives to the employee an application for a rebate, is illegal, since it compels the employee to make an interest-free loan to the union (Chicago Teachers Union versus Hudson. 475 US 292 (1986)).
3. The burden of proof is on the union to justify the assessment, and not on the employee who disputes an assessment (Abood versus Detroit Board of Education. 431 US 209 (1977)).
4. Workers who dispute the union's assessment do not have to go through the Labor Relations Board, but may take their case to Federal Court (Air Line Pilots Association versus Miller. 523 US 866 (1998)).
The DOE and public sector unions operate in violation of the above decisions.

Additionally, courts have held:

1. That employees with a religious objection to union membership may substitute for dues a donation to charity in the amount of dues.
2. That "religion" does not require belief in a Supreme Being. A civic religion, such as Confucianism, qualifies.
Before the creation of the TSB, the HSTA and HGEA leadership had an interest in retaliating against whistleblowers and employees who insisted on their right not to contribute to the HSTA's political activity. Before the creation of the TSB, however, the DOE administration had no power legally to terminate an employee for such activity, and the employee had grounds to sue the DOE for wrongful termination and the HSTA for failure to represent, should the HSTA cooperate with the DOE administration. With the TSB, the DOE administration can argue that it is bound by contract not to employ unlicensed teachers. The HSTA can insist that it is legally bound to represent only employees. The employee who has been decertified by this "independent" (NOT!) board now bears an impossible burden of proof, to show (without access to confidential personnel records of other dismissed teachers) that the HSTA and HGEA use the TSB power to eliminate dissidents. Let the employee take the Board's decision to a state court. As in traffic court, where the judge will accept the word of a police officer over a civilian (s/he has to believe somebody), judges will take the union-approved "expert's" word for it. The "standards" advanced by the TSB are a rubber yardstick. How can a teacher prove that s/he is, for example, sufficiently systematic if the Board has never defined "sufficiently systematic"? The judge will simply accept the Board's determination that this teacher is insufficiently systematic. The troublemaker is dismissed. Please READ the Math standards (student at http://doe.k12.hi.us/standards/hcps.htm and teacher at www.htsb.org), and try to imagine an assessment mechanism which might use them. If the Math standards are so vague as to be useless, what can one say about History or Art? The Legislature would recognize a conflict of interest if trial lawyers requested that a committee of lawyers determine which clients on retainer deserved representation. A lawyer who has accepted a retainer has a legal obligation to represent the client who paid the retainer. If lawyers argued that guilty clients do not deserve representation, the answer would be that guilt is established by trial, by the adversarial process, in which the lawyer plays has an obligatory role. Just so, the HSTA and HGEA are in a conflict of interest when they appoint the members of the Teacher Standards Board. The conflict is worse in the case of the TSB, as agency fees are mandated by law. The TSB would have been a bad idea had it promoted the best of standards. It is a terrible idea with the bogus standards they have created. Insiders will benefit. Students, teachers, and taxpayers will suffer. If you operate an expensive piece of machinery, and if that machinery does not perform well, it is lunacy to destroy the gages and indicator lights which provide information. The DOE is an expensive bureaucratic machine. By giving to the HSTA/HGEA/UPW cartel, which currently receives $1.7 billion+/year to operate Hawaii's K-12 government school system, the power to dismiss dissidents and whistleblowrs, the Legislature has guarantees rising costs and falling performance.

We were warned. In 1991, the Brookings Institution published a study by John Chubb and Terry Moe of school effectiveness, What Price Democracy; Politics, Markets, and America's Schools (since renamed simply Politics, Markets, and America's Schools). At the end of this study, the authors list a number of ineffective policies that they expect reformers to inflict on teachers and taxpayers. On teacher standards boards they write:

"The proposal for state licensing boards is a bad idea. In the name of professionalization, it essentially retains the top-heavy bureaucratic arrangements already in place -- arrangements that cannot do a good job of measuring and promoting good teaching, and whose numerous, time-consuming formal hurdles discourage entry into the field and vitiate what ought to be a dynamic, exciting market for teachers. The only real difference is that teachers, rather than public officials and agencies, would be able to exercise this authority. But this does not solve anything. Regulation would be just as bureaucratic and just as counterproductive as before. Worse, as political scientists have complained for decades, these self-regulating boards -- whether for doctors and lawyers or for cosmetologists, plumbers, and dog-groomers -- tend to use public authority in their own self-interest to restrict entry and enhance their incomes. And worse still, it would not really be "teachers" who would control these boards, but almost certainly organized teachers -- and far-and-away the largest, most geographically dispersed organization of teachers is the National Education Association."

On the NBPTS, Chubb and Moe write: "First, no certification scheme, especially not a national one, can possibly provide much vital information n the quality of an individual's teaching: assessments will inevitably rely too heavily on standard formal measures and too little on school-level discretionary judgment. Second, voluntary national credentialing would doubtless become cloaked in public authority anyway, as states, districts, and collective bargaining agreements make board certification a requirement for increased pay and educational responsibilities. It would be voluntary only in the sense that it would not constitute a legal barrier to entry. It would, on the other hand, become a legal barrier to career advancement. Third, credentialing by a national board would, in the end, create yet another bureaucracy that teachers and schools would have to contend with in doing their jobs. Making it private or voluntary or teacher controlled does not change its essentially bureaucratic approach to the problem of teacher quality and professionalism. And fourth, this board would be strongly influenced and perhaps dominated by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, adding to their already stifling hold on educational personnel." (Chubb and Moe, p. 204-205).

Take care. Homeschool if you can.

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