During his testimony yesterday before the Senate Budget Committee, Acting Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf was asked about Gov. Christie’s curious proposal to eliminate certification requirements for teachers in New Jersey’s public charter schools.
When pressed to clarify his position, he said “I don’t care if a teacher is certified and has a Ph.D from Harvard. If their students aren’t learning in a year, we ought to take note of that,” according to published reports. He continued by calling the state’s certification process “jumping through hoops.” He then suggested that teachers should take subject matter tests in order to be certified, apparently unaware that such tests are already required under the current certification process.
The suggestion that charter school teachers need not be certified drew a strong response from the education community. “It is baffling that the Governor and Acting Commissioner actually want to lower standards for charter school teachers,“ said NJEA president Barbara Keshishian.
“Certification is an important process that helps ensure that prospective educators have both the subject matter knowledge and the practical skills they need to be successful teachers. If you wanted to create a successful, innovative hospital, you would not hire architects and engineers off the street to perform the surgeries, no matter how successful they are in their chosen field. We should not be fooled into believing that no preparation and expertise is needed in order to be an excellent teacher.”
“Teaching is a hard job that requires some very specific skills and abilities. The certification process requires people to demonstrate that they have those skills before they are entrusted with our children’s education,” said Keshishian. “I hope Gov. Christie and Acting Commissioner Cerf will take the time to learn what certification is and how it works in New Jersey before they attempt to eliminate it.”