How Would This Work?

So, the state senate is debating whether all college professors (or I guess instructors?) should also be allowed to teach high school. For reasons that aren’t really clear to me, the Democrats are opposed to this.

But what I don’t understand is why there’s a need for this. If you have a job teaching at a college, why would you want to teach high school? I mean, can you imagine the professor of Biology who would want to have to teach the “controversy” when it comes to evolution? Or the Women’s Studies professor who is suddenly faced with abstinence-only rules?

I don’t really think Democrats know why they oppose this bill. Their reasons seem pretty silly. But it’s hilarious to me that the Republicans, looking at all they’ve done to teachers, would think that college professors would want to wade into that mess.

29 thoughts on “How Would This Work?

  1. There are a lot of part-timers in college teaching. I imagine they would like to pick up another paying job.

  2. Aunt B.,

    My off-hand guess is that this would allow retired professors to teach in high school. Even if they only worked as lecturers and in lab classes, they would be a tremendous asset to the schools.

    Similarly I suspect that this would allow schools to make the same offer to graduate students in areas like math, science and related subjects.

  3. Yes, but during the day? You’re going to work 8-4 at the high school and then teach your college courses when? Or take your college courses, if you’re a grad student, when?

    High school teaching is a full-time job.

    Are they saying that they’re going to change how high schools hire and now set it up more like college, where someone could teach just one class, like from 9:15-10:00 and then be on with their days?

  4. I don’t think this would be full time for anyone but retired faculty, if even them.

    Rather I think the key is the term “content knowledge.” I suspect that the state or school systems cannot pay for or insure someone who is regularly in a teaching position but not in possession of a teaching license.

    One of the constant criticisms leveled at our education industry is that teachers do not get enough requirements in their specialties. This is particularly true of math and the sciences.

    Imagine professors from Belmont, TSU, Lipscomb and Vanderbilt {to name a few} lecturing to high school students and answering questions. Even one two-hour session per week with a professor could make a major impact on student understanding. College faculty would seem to be an incredible resource we need to tap to help improve our schools.

    I also note that Senator Berke’s comment about the thousands of potential teachers seems to actually be a solution to the Democrats’ frequent call for higher teachers salaries in light of our coming teacher shortage.

  5. Yes, but Mark, you’re ignoring my point about scheduling this. If someone is going to come in as a teacher, they’re not doing one two hour session per week. If kids are on a block schedule, that would leave either one or two blocks per week unfilled. If they’re not on block schedule, are you just saying they don’t have to go to English and Spanish on Tuesday because they’re going to spend two hours in math instead?

    And I stand by my belief that you’re not going to get science professors who want to come into public schools and have to lie to kids about whether evolution is a controversy or whether abstinence-only is actually sex ed.

    I don’t believe (though I’m open to hearing from actual university professors) that any full-time faculty would want to do this. And it seems to me it’d be an unwise thing for a grad student to do instead of teaching college level courses, just for their career’s sake. I also think the idea that retired professors would do this in any number is hilarious. For what reason would they teach high school instead of picking up a class or two at their university–if for some reason they wanted to teach?

    I think the Democrats are wrong for putting up a fight against this. They should just not vote for it. But from my perspective, it makes the Republicans look delusional, like they have no idea why people go into academia or what they need to get out of it, and like they have no idea how public schools work.

    I’m happy to be proven wrong, but I just don’t think that I am.

    Tennessee loves to rip on educators and now they think the educators in this state least likely to have deep community ties are going to be the ones to overlook all the vitriol and help improve their schools? That is hilarious.

  6. There is an easier fix for this that content-knowledge providing college professors really WOULD get behind. The Tennessee Department of Education could change its licensing requirements to shift the balance of coursework over to….drum roll…actual content knowledge. Right now, in my state, between one-quarter and one-third of the credits of a high school teacher’s degree comes in the content area. That’s pretty typical and in fact is more robust than many states. Schools of education have done an excellent job of packing the curriculum full of bs “understanding the emotional world of the fifteen-year old” and “administrative computing” classes. Departments of Education (being filled with former School of Education graduates and profs) have self-replicated and accelerated the number of purely administrative classes (not pedagogy methods, which have a lot of utility).

    If fixing the “we need to find someone qualified to teach content” requires going outside the School of Ed-trained pool of teachers, then the problem is in your School of Ed and licensing requirements, no?

  7. Oooh, Bridgett said what I was going to say.

    Plus this: one of the reasons that students show up in college full of misinformation is that high school teachers tend to be completely unaware of what has been learned over the past generation about many aspects of the fields they teach. And the teachers are ignorant about it because they’ve never actually done any coursework in those areas. So I have to think that those college professors would be more usefully employed in teaching prospective high school teachers than in teaching at high schools, since that would have an impact on all those teachers’ future students.

  8. Let’s not heap blame solely on teachers. It doesn’t matter how gung-ho you come out of college, with all the newest information in your field, and all kinds of exciting ideas about how you’re going to teach the, say, anxieties of the modern era by getting kids to read Lovecraft (as a for-instance) if you get your job and the curriculum leaves you no space to teach the stuff you want to teach.

    I just have a very hard time believing that anyone who has a college-level job would willingly take on the constraints high school teachers have to operate under. The difference between, “Okay, you teach a class on the history of the Vietnam war however you think is best to get the issues across” and “you teach a class on contemporary U.S. history, spend a few days on Vietnam, but don’t say anything that’s going to piss the community off” is pretty damn huge.

    I’m surprised at the whole thing mostly because usually “liberal college professors” are on a rung lower than “teachers” for our Republicans, but this would seem to indicate a change in status.

  9. B, I don’t blame teachers. Teachers are getting the education they’re told they need, they’re working with the constraints on curriculum they’re given, they’re dealing with tremendous workloads, insufficient pay, badly maintained buildings, lack of supplies, and more. But they are also, in many cases, teaching outdated information because they’ve never been exposed to the more up-to-date stuff.*

    if adjuncts (who, so far as I can tell, are the college-level professors who would fit these classes into their already complicated schedules, because that’s what adjuncts do) can pick up another couple of classes a term at high schools, the pressure on colleges and universities to pay adjuncts more, let alone provide more full-time positions for them, is reduced. And the pressure on high schools to add full-time positions or pay their teachers more is reduced. That’s what this bill is about–keeping costs down at the expense of people who are already totally screwed by the system. And some adjuncts would not take high school jobs, but when you are facing downward pressure on your wages and are already running around town working at a bunch of different institutions….

    *I’m not even talking about controversial issues. Take something utterly non-controversial, like the myth that most people at the time of Columbus thought that the earth was flat. The amount of information that has been put together on this topic during the past 20 years (mostly because high school teachers won’t stop teaching it), in easily accessible form, should stop any teacher who had taken more than the most superficial survey class on world history, European history, history of science, etc. from repeating the myth. But they haven’t taken the classes, so they continue to teach the myth. Or the idea that the Great Depression started in the US in 1929 — self-evidently false to anyone who had taken a course in modern world history. But teachers of US history don’t have to take those classes. This isn’t about avoiding controversy; it’s about knowing the field.

  10. All Democrats are not against the Bill, there is no Caucas Postion in the House at least to oppose this.

  11. My teachers-to-be consistently confront this curricular conundrum. We teach them how to teach from primary documents…which they are then told not to use because “the language is too confusing and alienating” to the average high school reader. We teach them about complexity and failures and struggle and periods of democratic inclusion and contraction…and they are given textbooks that tell a simple “Yay Team!” story of continual progress toward a more perfect union. We teach them to complicate and question; the mandatory curriculum reduces events to sound bites and one-off mentions. If you can’t evaluate it on a multiple-choice test at the end of the week, it doesn’t get taught.

    Case in point…yesterday, in my class, students read the Constitution and Madison’s notes and spent nearly 90 minutes getting to the question of what we actually can determine about the original intent of the Framers. We also discussed why the Constitution as originally offered to the states without amendments was not very popular with the people who had borne the brunt of the sacrifices in the American Revolution. They concluded — rightly — that the things we most prize about the Constitution didn’t come from the Framers at all, but was in response to popular pressure from “the people.” Our conversation led them to a deep understanding of Federalist and anti-Federalist positions, gave rise to conversations about fears of “excess democracy” in the hands of the lower sort, about the economic and racial profile of the Framers’ “imagined citizen,” and about the tensions between state governments (which were fairly responsive) and the federal government (which was explicitly designed to resist being responsive to popular pressure). We talked about the evolution of rights claims, what powers the state still retains, the contemporary application of original intent jurisprudence…VERY different than what they were “fed” (a student’s word) in high school.

    However, having high school students read the Constitution falls outside my state’s curricular guidelines. American history teachers are to present materials on the Convention (same thing my kid is doing right now in 7th grade…and she also did it in 4th grade…) — teaching the same story of the Framers, the Great Compromise and the triumph of democracy without ever once taking a hard look at the way that the Constitution explicitly and repeatedly placed barriers between “the people” and the federal government to make it less democratic and less representative than state governments of the time. This leaves students (most of whom will never go to college) without the critical tools to understand why the federal government functions as it does. They are never taught that it was people like them — not some bewigged debate club — who argued the articulation of our rights into being. They are being systematically denied the history of their own capacity for self-governance.

    I’m pretty sure that the Republicans don’t want me or what I teach in high schools.

  12. My guess: Part of the motive is that the GOP wants to open up licenses to people who are not current teachers union members and are less likely to join now that the union’s been gutted. Or at least that’s what TEA thinks.

    TEA might be whispering in somebody’s ear that it’s an attempt to thin out the ranks of traditional teachers. Of course, nobody on the Democratic side is going to say any of this out loud because that would kill their opposition to it.

    Then there’s the other, more cynical side. The non-traditional teachers allowed in the system now come from Teach for America, and they, frankly, often suck at it. Hiring in teachers with proven track records who probably won’t suck at it makes the whole experiment — the erosion of traditional-track teachers in public schools — less likely to be a complete failure.

  13. Bridgett and NM are exactly right about the failings of graduate schools of education and their lack of emphasis on classes in their subjects in favor of other sorts of unrelated subjects. It is also true that many of the approaches to teaching taught in these grad schools do not have much on the way of evidence to prove their efficacy.

    NM’s point about things that are still taught despite having been discredited is critical. To some extent modern technology can help here by making new information more easily accessible. It also points to one of the virtues of getting professors involved in 9-12 education. College faculty are much more likely to be familiar with evolving views within their areas. Even having some local {or statewide} college professors helping revise curricula would make a huge difference.

  14. Well, but Mark! College professors would encourage teaching about complexity, and discourage standardized testing, and we can’t have that!

  15. Another huge way that Tennessee’s legislature could help is to fund grants to support continuing ed summer workshops for high school teachers. Ohio used to have such a program for social studies teachers — the deal was that teachers would come to their regional state u’s campus every weekday for three weeks in July or August (we ran two sessions). A series of profs would lecture in their fields about recent developments and historiographical matters in the morning. In the afternoon, we’d review materials of use in the classroom — screen and critique movies, demonstrate standards-based activities based on primary documents, and connect teachers to different websites and offer sample assignments to enrich and support their current practices. We paid them $500 up front and gave them another $2500 and a huge book of materials at the end. So, teachers that ordinarily had to pick up a retail job to make ends meet in the summertime got an extensive refresher experience, built connections with their regional university campus, got some professional bona fides. It was a good program that put the fizz where the trouble was.

    These grants were phased out due to budgetary concerns during the last big downturn before this latest one…but they worked and both teachers and profs loved them.

  16. I think this is a really interesting proposal. I’ve taught transitional or pre-college or developmental reading and writing courses as an adjunct for 20 years now in Louisville, and even though I am really comfortable with my skill level and competence, and am generally up to date on working with at-risk student populations, I am not sure I’d be comfortable with the state flat-out granting me a license to teach secondary school students based on my C.V. Sure, graduate education departments need to beef up content-knowledge requirements, but the flip side is that most college instructors, from adjuncts to full profs, get teaching positions with minimal or no education in how to be a teacher. And that’s why so many of them stink out loud at it. When you are educating adults, they have recourse. They can drop your class or complain. It really does take understanding some ed theory and ed psych–not just content knowledge–to be a teacher who reaches students.

    The commenter who mentioned the downward financial pressures on part time instructors is right on the proverbial money. I can’t imagine this would be an attractive or workable proposition for tenure-track or even full-time or retired profs. Secondary school licensing would appeal to part-timers and adjuncts who currently scramble across the county to teach 6 courses at 4 institutions. And at 2 years full-time or 4 years part time, the institutions they work for really have no way of knowing if these instructors are any good at all. It takes a lot longer than that for a reputation for bad teaching to catch up with most adjuncts. YMMV, but I’d be very cautious about granting secondary school teaching licenses to “college instructors” on the basis of time in the field alone.

  17. Bridgett, that sounds like an excellent approach. I wonder if Tennessee has done anything like that. i will inquire.


    We could do with fewer standardized tests and a little complexity would do students good. Although introducing complexity as early as possible seems wise to me.

  18. Flannerycat, it’s true that one must learn how to teach. And it’s even more true that teaching 18-year-olds is a different proposition from teaching 14-year-olds and that skill at one doesn’t necessarily translate into skill at the other. (Of course, IMO a couple of methods courses and hands-on mentoring and observation are more useful than anynumbers of semesters of classwork in learning to teach.) It must just be my day to be cynical, though, because I can’t see either of those issues being of concern to the people proposing the legislation.

    Bridgett, that sounds like a fantastic program.

  19. I’d like to clarify here. Teachers in my field (history/social studies) are licensed straight out of their bachelor’s programs — where they get a max of 36 credits of content area coursework (out of a 122 credit degree). To put that in lay terms, that’s 8 history classes total plus an economics class. The people who teach k-6 classes have as little as 20 credits in history (or 4 classes…a semester’s worth of study). It’s sad.

    If a student goes back for a master’s in *Education* (and my state requires that they get a master’s in something within 5 years of commencing to teach), they will not get even one more credit in content. NOT ONE. They will learn, among other things, more literacy strategies, how to use a smartboard, and the latest theories about why students don’t learn so good. They would have to opt to get a master’s degree in history — which many school districts will not help to pay for and which is a much more intellectually challenging degree — if they wanted to actually know more about the past. Given the barriers to acquiring an advanced degree in history, few do.

  20. Anyone who thinks that a college professor coming into a classroom to lecture students is going to be successful hasn’t spent any time in a K-12 classroom lately. Most currently enrolled public school students lack the attention span to benefit from a lecture format, which is why modern K-12 education has turned teachers into circus performers.

    Also, who’s going to be doing the assessment of these students, if all the professors do is come in and lecture? Who’s going to be responsible for grades, testing, in-class assessment, etc.? And who’s going to be held responsible for the TVAAS results of these students? The visiting college professor? I sincerely doubt it.

  21. Um … I don’t know why you think that college students only deliver lectures. Or don’t do their own grading.

  22. nm, I was responding to this comment by Mark Rogers:

    “Imagine professors from Belmont, TSU, Lipscomb and Vanderbilt {to name a few} lecturing to high school students and answering questions.”

  23. From a quick glance at it, it seems like how the TVAAS data is being used is to tout annual “gains” on the TCAP (whatever that means)…but the only thing that appears to be changing is the state’s testing instrument (not the national scores on the ACT), so you can draw your own conclusions about how those state-wide “gains” are being achieved. Looks to me that they dumb down the test a little more each year.

  24. “the TVAAS data is being used is to tout annual “gains” on the TCAP (whatever that means)…”

    The average person has to engage in magical thinking to actually understand Dr. Sanders’ model.

  25. Min,

    I never suggested this was a ‘silver bullet’ for education or that it is as simple as just placing professors into lecture halls. But I think it is an approach that merits some exploration because there is a serious lack of teachers who have the subject knowledge {especially in the sciences and mathematics} needed to prepare students for college.

    Simply giving teaching certificates to every professor in Tennessee is not the ideal approach but some study seems quite reasonable.

  26. This is the first I’ve heard of this. Seems like most college courses are taught by grad students and teaching assistants and whatnot anyway… and I would bet Democrats are opposed to the idea for reasons of supporting the union, maybe? I really don’t know. It does seem like a strange fit, though. Teaching high school is its own thing, and teaching college is its own thing. It’s not one size fits all. Seems like you would want to specialize in your educational field. But what do I know.

    I’m just surprised that there’s a rule against this. I don’t know why the legislature needs to get involved.

  27. Actually, teachers can and do bring in college level guest speakers for their classes. There’s no legal prohibition against it. And I know a number of K-12 teachers who moonlight at community colleges in the evening. The problem is, once again, accountability. Are these professors going to be held to the same standard as regular teachers, or are they just going to play glorified guest speaker and pick up a nice check that could be used to pay someone who’s actually committed to K-12 education as a career?

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