California interns get schooled

In Opinion

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing decided to increase requirements before sending interns to teach students with learning dilemmas regarding special needs and language.

Teach for America is a program for graduates who wish to continue their education and receive their teaching credentials on nights and weekends while teaching as needed under emergency credential validation.

This program is a great way for students who cannot afford to take an additional year of schooling while not receiving any income. It’s a way for people to give back to their community, as the organization often sends interns to underrepresented areas, special needs programs and students who have learned English as a second language.

The red flags are being drawn by a coalition of civil rights organizations, teachers’ unions, researchers and parents who argue that these technically under-qualified teachers are being sent to serve the state’s neediest areas, which may compromise the underprivileged students’ rights to an equal education.

These interns, who are still earning their teaching credentials, were intended to be recruited on a “last resort” basis, but it appears the state’s current 4,400 interns are being disproportionately sent to the these designated areas.

This is cause for alarm.

Students who were brought to America at a young age, or even students born to non-English speaking parents, should not sit under a teacher who has not yet proven his or her teaching credentials. These are people most likely to need specialized teaching techniques designed to supplement their disadvantages.

In a letter the coalition wrote, it stated that: “As organizations committed to ensuring that California’s most vulnerable students are taught by teachers fully prepared to meet their needs, we write to express our strong support for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (“the commission”) staff’s recommendations.”

We can all agree that this is a great program to help keep classroom sizes down by introducing interns into the workforce. However, precautionary steps must still be taken in order to ensure that equal education is distributed evenly throughout the state.

Such recommendations include strengthening training for interns before they enter a classroom, limiting their teaching strategies to those proven to work, and adding supervision and support to the classes being taught by interns.

Another agenda on this list of to do’s is to figure out what is to be done after the expiration to the rider which Congress attached to the No Child Left Behind Act. The act labels teaching interns as “highly qualified” as means to bypass the emergency waiver notice given to parents whose children are enrolled in a class with an intern teacher. This bill is close to expiration and opposition would like this to be extended, but the CCTC is seeking to close this option indefinitely.

I would want to know if my child was being taught by an intern, at least as a precautionary step to ensure his or her education standards were up to par.

The Teach for America Organization is conflicted on these issues. It appears the intern teachers who are genuinely interested in the wellbeing of students’ education are okay with stricter regulations. In their eyes, the better equipped they are to take on a highly complicated task, the better.

Opposers are clearly only worried about more money being spent to educate the interns further, along with a harder workload, which may deplete the program. But for the ones who are there for the right reasons, I do not believe their determination can be swayed with higher standards; they will embrace it.

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