Commentary

No Need to Fear ‘Uncertified’ Teachers in Michigan – There Are Thousands of Them

There’s little evidence students are worse off

In response to news reports that an increasing number of school districts are using long-term substitute teachers, a poll claims that the vast majority of Michigan residents want people to have more training before being able to teach. But mandating certification is unlikely to help this perceived problem.

In Michigan, substitute teachers need to have completed 60 college credit hours — about half the number needed for a teaching degree. Bridge Michigan reports:

Nearly nine in 10 residents surveyed said they want the state to require formal teacher training before long-term subs step into a classroom. Nearly eight in 10 Michiganders said a bachelor’s degree and/or work experience relevant to the subject they are teaching should be required.

“Making those requirements — that's a good first step. We need to go back to having those requirements for anybody who's entering a classroom and working with children,” Dr. Elizabeth Birr Moje, dean of the University of Michigan School of Education, said in an interview with Bridge.

There isn’t much evidence that mandatory certification makes teachers better, though. Consider the fact that there are thousands of teachers in Michigan who are not required to be certified, and there is no evidence they do a worse job. That includes private school teachers, Teach for America, some specialty subject area teachers and homeschooling parents.

The state mandating that “anyone who’s entering a classroom and working with children” jump through more certification hoops isn’t likely to help students. If certification were the key, Michigan wouldn’t have so many lousy schools – most of which are fully staffed by fully certified teachers and administrators.

Just because the state doesn’t mandate certification does not mean teachers, or other workers, are untrained. It doesn’t even mean they won’t meet public certification requirements – indeed, most private schools teachers in Michigan have a teaching degree even though they aren’t required to. Every worker in every occupation needs some type of training. But, most of the time, the employer has a better sense of what trainings, courses or experience makes sense for the job. Schools are no different.