The whole issue of teacher certification is one of great importance and when discussed must be done in a delicate and thoughtful manner. The reason for this increasing importance is because the education of our nation's teachers is important to the creation of an ideal education system, which is one of the goals of our national government and State governments. Over the years the whole educational reform movement has become an increasingly "hot" topic. Reforms in the administration of school systems and in curriculum theory and practice have been asked for and a4re currently being put into effect. Recently, reform of the education of teachers is being added to the lo9ng list of reforms needed. Many reform activists feel that direct changes need to be made on the methods of training and certifying the teachers of our country. Before looking at the reform movement, however, one must first look at the so called problem of inconsistency in teacher certification.
In our country today there is a general consistency among the requirements for state certification of teachers. Most states require their teacher institutions to establish a teacher education program that includes coursework and fieldwork. The coursework includes those courses that prepare a student to become a professional teacher and those classes that include major and minor fields of specialization. Fieldwork, which is probably the most important of the two forms of requirements, involves the individual interested in being a teacher going out and observing, practicing, and preparing to enter the educational world as an instructor. There is no argument that all schools in every state has these basic requirements of teacher certification. However, the inconsistency lies within how the numerous institutions go about in teaching these requirements. Each post-secondary school is given the jurisdiction to choose how they are going to go about meeting these basic teacher certification requirements. For example, many states require a different amount of field hours. An inconsistency can also be seen in the various models of teacher education that are used throughout the nation. Two education researchers, Howey and Zimpher conducted a study on this variety of models in 1989. They came up with three different attempts of teacher training. The first, known as the teacher's college model, involves certification students entering a separate school within a university that is a "teacher's college". The second approach is called the liberal arts model by the researchers, and is a method that requires and individual to become specialized in a certain liberal arts subject in order to create "capable and cultured human beings". The third and final model discussed by Howley and Zimpher is entitled the competency-based model. This method trains individuals in the arts o motivation and understanding. As one can see by this case study, there have been a variety of approaches to teacher certification. An inconsistency can similarly be detected by looking at the various new and innovative ideas in teacher education. Among these include the alternative route, a topic discussed earlier, and the five-year degree program, and issue to be discussed shortly in this section. Altogether, one could state that there is some inconsistency in teacher certification, and this inconsistency brings about a small problem in the educational spectrum of our world. In my opinion, there is no national and universal set of requirements for teacher certification. The variety of different methods and forms of teacher education programs is causing an inconsistency in how teachers are being trained nationwide. When this is realized, the whole issue of reforming teacher certification becomes very relevant to our society.
As stated earlier, reforms in the training of future teachers are beginning to really be requested by the general public. Various groups have met to discuss the various issues surrounding the reform movement. Among the most notable are the Holmes Group, the Association of American Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE), the Education Commission of the States (ECS), and Goodlad's group. These various groups and many others have come up with a variety of reforms and new standards that most likely should and will be integrated into the current teacher certification requirements. One certain similarity that all of these recommendations have with each other is that they all call for higher regulations and an increase in the education of future teachers. Many of the group0s called for an increase in providing individuals knowledge on the profession of teachi8ng, and some groups also called for a more intense training in the various fields under a liberal arts education. Increases in the amount of fieldwork required seems to also be a major issue discussed by the reform groups. The issue of selection under standardized testing was also discussed, with respect to increasing the required SAT/ACT or GRE scores. Finally, the research groups came up with various new ideas involving the creation of professional teaching schools or tiered systems that would require a teacher to go through more training even after they received their bachelor's degree. All in all, these reform groups have come up with some very unique and interesting ideas to change teacher certification for the better. It is the best interest of our nation to make changes in our current teacher education program, for, in this case, change would be for the better. To conclude, I would like to take a brief but in depth look at an innovative idea established by the Maine State Department of Education in conjunction with the University of Southern Maine. This program, entitled the Extended Teacher Education Program, involves future teachers continuing on for a fifth year after completing their undergraduate studies. This fifth year involves the individual taking part in internships. These internships give the future teachers a chance at more fieldwork in order to gain more experiences before they become full fledged teachers. Nonetheless, the results of the initial year of the program seem to indicate that the idea around this new program is a successful one. Those individuals who took part in the program obtained various skills and understandings that all ideal teachers should have. The excellent outcomes of this program leads one to believe that it might be a good idea to implement this structure nationwide. The idea of creating professional schools for teachers has become a popular one in recent times. After all if doctors and lawyers have to go to a professional school, then shouldn't teachers as well?
In conclusion, the issue of teacher training and certification brings up many questions, especially in reference to reforming. The inconsistent and somewhat outdated education of teachers today needs change, in order to create an ideal educational system. Numerous reforms have been discussed and recommended by various research organizations and now is the time to take action and implement some of these reforms before our education systems continue to fall downwards into the depths of degradation. Change I needed and change must come now.