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Loose Lips (8/29) documents some of the recent follies of Commandant Julius Becton as he runs the D.C. Public Schools even further into the ground. Rather than trying to salvage century-old buildings that have never been maintained properly, the general and his trustees should be lobbying for money to build new buildings on the sites of the vacant schools that they are foolishly trying to sell. This is how any reasonable school system, such as Montgomery County’s, keeps its buildings current.

Now that he has failed on the physical facilities front, where he’s supposed to have some competence, the general has decided to assault the educational program—an area in which even he will admit that he has no expertise. The latest proof of his total lack of understanding of how public schools work is his recent decree that teachers lacking certification will soon be dismissed.

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Every involved public school parent and every competent principal knows that many of our most dedicated and talented teachers have never been certified by the Mickey Mouse credentialing process that infects our public school system (and most others, as well). For example, the recent college graduates who participate in the Teach for America program have provided some of our most inspiring educators. These young people majored in substantive subjects such as biology and English in college, rather than in education, and thus cannot be certified because they never took required courses like “Sociology of the Urban Youth.”

Some of the high points in the education of my own children in the D.C. Public Schools involved exposure to experienced and gifted teachers who did not (and, in some cases, simply refused to) take the silly courses required by the antiquated public school certification system. Few, if any, teachers at the most prestigious private schools would meet the bureaucratic requirements for certification as public school teachers. Does this mean they’re unqualified to teach? One of the reasons for increasing interest in charter schools is that such schools do not require certification of teachers.

Everyone but Gen. Becton recognizes that certification is no indication of teacher quality. Let the general stick to trying to get the buildings open before Christmas and leave the educational decisions up to someone who may actually have some knowledge of how schools work.

Friendship Heights

via the Internet