Fast Tracking New Teachers Not The Solution

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On today's front page is a story about the Payson Unified School District governing board's decision to enforce a policy that makes teachers honor their contracts to serve a full academic year.

For the second time this school year, a teacher has asked to be released from a contract. For the second time, the board has refused the request. The teacher who made the first request, left in spite of the board's ruling. The latest teacher denied release will most likely stay to fulfill her contract.

Among the reasons the board cited for its rulings is a policy requiring that a qualified replacement be immediately available to fill the vacant slot.

Arizona has a teacher shortage. Replacements are becoming more difficult to find. New teachers are almost a rare commodity.

Experienced teachers are taking early retirement or moving into the business sector for higher pay. To become a teacher is not a big draw for young people today because of inadequate pay. The challenge is even more daunting in rural communities that cannot offer salaries competitive with those of larger schools in metropolitan areas.

The latest solution is to fast track the educations of people from the business world who want to become instructors in the public school system.

Having experienced people in the classroom is far better for students than just having a body there.

It takes about 10 years to "make" a teacher, according to a retired educator and an administrator still serving in local schools.

This veteran teacher believes the experience of student teaching, assisted by a mentor, is vital to the success of any educator. Then years on the job are needed to fully educate teachers in how to overcome the many obstacles they must face. Obstacles created by an academic bureaucracy constantly changing requirements and demands; difficult students and those who need different approaches; and the parents and businesses in the community they serve.

It is a very rare individual who can come from a business environment and be effective in a classroom with only the most basic training.

The money being spent to attract and fast track business world recruits into education would be better spent in helping rural districts supplement their budgets to retain the experienced men and women already serving in the school system.

The funds being thrown at developing tests to prove students are learning the lessons needed to be competent in various disciplines could be put to use to make sure the best teachers remain in the field and that they are properly compensated for their efforts.

Fast tracking new teachers is not the way to get people into education. Giving experienced and formally trained educators the pay and respect they deserve will keep the right people in the classroom, molding our most precious resource, the children who will be tomorrow's leaders.

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