... if you know your subject material, anyway. A new federally-backed program is being tried out that will allow professionals without education degrees to become certified teachers after taking a computerized test.

Walter Lutes, of Boise, Idaho, is trying to become the first teacher in America certified by solely taking a $400 computerized test — no education degree, no student teaching — shaving three years off his career change from mechanical engineer to math teacher. "It seems like a shortcut, but I don't view it as that," said Lutes. "I view it as this was a route I could take to get to what I really want to do — what I'm good at doing — in a more efficient manner."

As a fellow engineer, that's exactly how I view it as well. Naturally, teachers aren't enthused.

The goal is to reduce barriers for expert professionals to teach, especially subjects like math and science. But some teachers say it's misguided.

"It's cutting corners," said Kathy Phelan, president of the Idaho Education Association (search). "And what it's doing is ... the most important part of teaching is not being measured. It discounts your ability to interact with students and impart what you know."

Funny, I would have figured that the most important part of teaching is knowing the material you're trying to teach. I've had lots of excellent teachers who didn't "interact" with the students much, but I've never had a good teacher who didn't know their material.

Critics say these test-certified teachers will have no oversight during their on-the-job training. But in fact, the program calls for two years of mandatory monitoring.

And so forth and so on. Considering the dismal quality of public education, are teachers really the best people to be judging the utility and effectiveness of this new program?



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