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Burdensome requirements restrict teacher pool in Maryland | COMMENTARY

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I have more than three years of full-time math teaching experience in two different school districts. Every year I have been in the classroom I’ve received a rating of either effective or highly effective. Additionally, I prefer to teach in Title 1 schools, which are traditionally harder to staff. It is my aim to teach in Baltimore City next school year and do my best to serve the Charm City community, but when I applied to Baltimore City Public Schools I was told I did not meet the requirements.

My application was denied because I do not have 30 college credits in math. Of course, despite not taking 10 math classes as an undergraduate, I know the content that I have been teaching for the past several years. To further prove my content knowledge, I exceeded the passing score on the Middle School Mathematics Praxis exam when I took it before my first year of teaching. Still, the Maryland Department of Education says this is not enough.

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My personal story shows just one of the myriad ways that Maryland restricts its teacher supply. First, the state makes it nearly impossible for professionals to obtain alternative certifications even with prior teaching experience. Those who are able to meet the preliminary requirements are often forced to spend their evenings during their first two years in the classroom attending (and paying for) graduate classes. Even for traditionally certified teachers, there are further requirements. Maryland teachers must apply for a new license every five years, and after a decade in the classroom, teachers who do not have a master’s degree or extensive graduate level coursework are removed. Yes, Maryland is actively chasing away some of its most experienced educators.

With all these restrictions in place, it is no surprise that Maryland is suffering from a massive teacher shortage, including a “critical shortage” of math teachers as identified by the state’s most recent staffing report. In fact, Maryland has a critical shortage in 20 different subject areas. These shortages fall most heavily on districts with greater shares of low-income students of color. Baltimore, for example, has dozens of teacher vacancies every year. And while teacher shortages are spread throughout the country, Maryland’s is exacerbated due to particularly onerous teacher licensure laws.

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Advocates for these rigid restrictions claim that they boost teacher quality. Yet, evidence suggests that there is no correlation between a teacher’s credentials and student outcomes. Still, the Maryland State Education Association has a history of supporting these restrictions and standing against alternative certification programs. However, these largely white institutions should grapple with the racial biases that are inherent with credentialism. Alternatively certified teachers are more likely to be male, teachers of color, and work in marginalized communities. Furthermore, the requirement for teachers to attend graduate classes boxes out working parents who may not be able to meet the time demands while raising children.

No matter their original intentions, licensure laws limit the teacher supply and reduce the quantity and quality of educators in Maryland. Other states have had success loosening their requirements for alternative certification, but a smarter system would ban these mandatory certifications altogether and give administrators and local leaders full autonomy over their communities. This is not to say we should abandon certifications entirely, but they should act as a signal, not a requirement. At a minimum, certifications should be waived for teachers with experience outside the state.

Lifting restrictions would reduce vacancies and boost student achievement. If administrators have multiple applicants for a position, they can choose the best fit for their students instead of being forced to choose the one with the required credentials. While some school leaders may still prefer to hire certified teachers, they all should have the freedom to decide which applicant is the best fit for their school.

In my process of applying to teaching positions in Baltimore City, I am not asking for a guaranteed position. I am only asking for a chance to show administrators that I can be a valuable asset to their school and that if a school leader wishes to hire me, they can do so.

If Maryland sticks to the status quo, teacher shortages will remain and the damages will continue to fall predominantly on marginalized communities. It is time for Maryland to reduce the burdensome requirements placed on public schoolteachers and ensure there are high quality educators in every classroom.

Nate Golden is a public schoolteacher and policy writer. He is currently completing a Fulbright Scholarship in Taiwan. His Twitter handle is @ngpsu22.


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