Have you ever taken a class where the teacher did not know the subject and was just a few pages ahead of the students each day? Students can easily detect when the teacher doesn’t know what they are talking about. Unfortunately, such teachers have become more common in recent years.
Two decades ago, if a K-12 school assigned a “teacher” to teach a course outside their field for more than two years, the school would lose its state funding. That requirement penalty ended when certification was changed to licensure. Kansas administrators used the QPA standards as a rationale to convince the State Board to “trust us” to have qualified teachers in the classroom.
But there were unqualified teachers in the classrooms back then. Schools had several “work-arounds.” I regularly ran the KSDE science teacher mail lists. So I noticed when a teacher that had moved to a new school 200 miles across the state was still listed at his prior small rural school where recruiting teachers was difficult. In other cases, when science teachers are promoted to administrators, they can be listed as overseeing a course taught by an unlicensed teacher; but the assumed “oversight” is negligible. This common shuck-and-jive is still used today, and is completely legal.
For a brief time under No Child Left Behind, there was a requirement to actually verify teacher credentials to meet criteria for “highly qualified” teachers. A KSDE staffer at the time actually visited schools. That staffer found more not-highly-qualified teachers than were on the records schools submitted that year. But that audit system came and went.
Today I continue to run off the state lists of science teachers and find some duplicated names at schools that are very distant. There are some legitimate cases of a science teacher teaching at one rural district in the morning and driving to another school in the afternoon; so a bona fide teacher may be double-listed. But KSDE lists show one teacher at no less than eight schools, some over 100 miles apart. Really?
Budget simply does not allow extensive on-site checks of K-12 credentials.
Unfortunately the situation in Kansas higher education is just as bad.
There are plenty of regulations and guidelines that attempt to maintain some minimal standards for college academic courses and the faculty who teach them. There should be at least 15 class contact hours or equivalent for every hour of academic credit given. No more than one credit hour should be awarded per week in any condensed summer or off-hours course. Faculty are to have the terminal degree in their field at regents universities.
But some tech schools offer three credits for a two weekend academic course. And they can hire teachers who barely have half the coursework needed to teach that subject in high school!
Both the new Commissioner of Education and the veteran President of the Board of Regents should saunter over to the nearby law enforcement departments in Topeka and hire away their biggest officers. They should keep their uniforms and guns and begin visiting educational institutions across Kansas and enforce the criteria on the books.
But instead, I am told that education standards are “enforced” by the accreditation process. That is the honor-system paper-chase that allows violations to go undetected. We only have to look at the recent case at University of North Carolina where, for almost 20 years, many athletes were enrolled in fake courses. And all of this time U.N.C. was accredited by their regional accrediting agency.
The K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission just reported out plans to “recommend regular audits” and “check best financial practices.” Unfortunately, if approved and funded by the Kansas Legislature, that would all center on finances. It is a committee of penny-pinching Scrooges. No one would audit faculty credentials or course integrity.
Consider what would happen to our medical system if no one enforced the regulations that prevent people from practicing medicine without a license! When unqualified teachers can pass as qualified, it not only denies a position to another competent teacher but it also makes the shortage go away on paper.
Until someone in education carries a badge and a gun, education in Kansas is a “Wild West.”