kitchen table math, the sequel: One school's take on teacher certification

Monday, April 5, 2010

One school's take on teacher certification

VickyS asked in another thread: "In my state, and I assume most others, you don't need state licensure to teach in a private schools. Are those teachers any less effective for it?

Here's one example that answers Vicky's question with a resounding "No!" Ridgeview Classical School is continually ranked in the US News & World Report as a top charter school in the country. One year, they were #15 overall. Their previous principal, Dr. Terrence Moore, (currently an Assistant Professor of History at Hillsdale College in Michigan) wrote frequently about teacher certification and the value of ed. schools. (And classical education, and phonics, and Core Knowledge...) He recommends two books for people seeking information on schools of education: Rita Kramer’s Ed School Follies and, even better, George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

From his article, Association of Teacher Qualification and Certification is a False One:
When I taught history at the university level, I noticed an extreme division in my classes. The history majors reveled in the subject, did all the reading, and had significant things to say in class. The ed-school students sat at the back of the class, had little to say, showed little sign of enjoying or mastering the material, and usually skimmed by with a C minus. Which group is more qualified to teach history to the nation’s children?
His thesis from A Monopoly on ’Relating to Children’?: Teacher Certification Further Refuted:
Certified teachers do not have a monopoly on being able to relate to kids but are very often the people least able to do so.
Ouch! The Ridgeview Classical School is well-known locally for seeking out non-certified teachers in the school. In fact, anyone seeking a teaching position in Fort Collins should consider the current open positions at Ridgeview:

(All emphases are mine)

Special Education Teacher
...The candidate does not need to have a degree in special education to be considered for this position. Any interested candidate who has a strong background in liberal arts, science, or brain-based fields will be considered, as long as there is a commitment to obtain appropriate CDE licensure. It is necessary that the candidate maintains high academic standards for all students regardless of background or learning differences. The special education teacher must demonstrate the ability to teach students (K – 12), who need additional supports and services beyond the scope of the classroom setting, and is also expected to participate in the identification process for students who struggle academically or behaviorally. Candidates should have experience in different kinds of classroom settings.

Humanities Teacher
Ridgeview is looking for a versatile teacher who can teach literature, Latin, and history (especially American) to students from upper elementary to high school. Applicants should have degrees in at least two of those subjects or be able to demonstrate their versatility in other ways. A teaching certificate is not a requirement. Teachers are expected to be content experts in their field. Applicants should be able to demonstrate excellent classroom control and considerable experience in teaching students of different ages.

Ridgeview seeks a math teacher for the middle and high school. Applicants should be expert mathematicians with a degree in their field and the ability to communicate their expertise to their students. Teaching certification is not required for this position. Applicants should be able to teach a wide variety of math classes from pre-algebra to high-level math electives.


Unknown said...

I should also mention that my kids did not attend this school, even though they are a Core knowledge/Singapore Math school. (Yes, we have TWO schools who teach both CK and SM town!) They have an interesting philosophy of math education, though.

farmwifetwo said...

Here (Ontario) the K to 8's have a 4yr undergrad of something.. most sociology or psychiatry... no Dr's anywhere... One year of Teacher's college and that's it. And Teacher's college is to learn the paperwork and prov curriculum.

I don't know if the 9's to 12's have to have an undergrad in the course they are teaching or not. Once upon a time, probably... but now I have my doubts. Again 1yr of Teacher's college.

And... since they've taken their 1 yr of Teacher's College... they will all tell you they are the only one's who can teach.

Michael Edlavitch said...

I am a Middle School Math Teacher and I created a new free online math games site called

Cranberry said...

The teachers at my children's private schools do not have ed school degrees. They usually have undergraduate degrees in non-education majors from Liberal Arts Colleges, State colleges and tech schools. They either have degrees in the subject they teach, or in a related field.

Both schools teach with an eye to the demands of the next level of schooling. Thus, the middle school looks to place their students into demanding prep schools, and the high school looks to place students into the top colleges. This shapes the curriculum. In both schools, particular emphasis is placed upon training students to develop the work habits needed to flourish at the next level. The middle school regularly assigns 3 hours of homework (not busy work). The high school work runs from 3 to 5 hours.

I believe that training of teachers is done as an apprenticeship. My impression is that teachers are given a great deal of feedback as they learn how to teach. There also seems to be a greater ease in transferring from one private school to another, as they aren't as tied to one school by tenure and seniority rules.

Catherine Johnson said...

One thing we noticed when we looked at most of the private schools here (Westchester County & Manhattan) was that teachers teaching liberal arts & social sciences typically didn't have ed school degrees but very often teachers teaching math did.

That was distressing. Constructivist math -- or at least teacher training in constructivist math -- has thoroughly penetrated the private schools here, I think.

A friend of mine talked to the Math Chair at a private K-8 school in MA & learned that the school use Everyday Math. The math chair told her that parents using Saxon Math to teach their kids are 'abusing their children.' That was the term: abuse.

This is an elite private K-9 school.

The math chair also dismissed Singapore Math as being insufficiently.....real-world, I think.

Apparently the school has been receiving complaints about the quality of the math teaching. I don't know whether parents are complaining about the math curriculum per se.

Barry Garelick said...

I don't know whether parents are complaining about the math curriculum per se.

Excellent observation. Since fidelity of implementation of Everyday Math or TERC results in inherently poor teaching, the teaching and curriculum may be one and the same.

Catherine Johnson said...


I just looked through the school's course guide & found Fountas & Pinnell and Rebecca Sitton.

Actually, the course guide is funny because for reading they've got the public school constructivist books (F&) **and** the afterschool deliberate practice books (Ridgewood Grammar by Educators Publishing Service)

I see they've got Connected Math for the middle school years...

Parents are paying $30K a year for this.

Catherine Johnson said...

I actually know someone on the board of that school --- the board member completely rejects the possibility that the math curriculum could be bad or that the curriculum is any business of the board's.

They fire teachers all the time.

But they never look at or ask about curriculum.

Anonymous said...

I recently looked at schools in eastern PA. PA has onerous homeschooling rules, and Eastern PA has some very limited Catholic school options. Philly itself has terrible public schools, and the suburbs have a lot of very expensive private schools, esp. near Bryn Mawr, Haverford, etc.

All of the schools who listed their curricula on their web sites used Everyday Math for grammar schooling. We're talking 10k or more in tuition for K-5, and Everyday Math, (just like the Philly public schools, btw.) No deviation.

Catherine Johnson said...

I thought about that when looking at the book about Jesuit schools thriving while other Catholic schools are closing.

My guess is that Catholic schools would stand a better chance of surviving if they offered a clear alternative to public schools.

Which would mean, among other things, no Everyday Math.

Of course, the fact that parents are paying fantastic sums of money to send their kids to private schools using Everyday Math & Connected Math may refute that argument altogether.

SteveH said...

It can be a matter of choices. There were no private schools in our region that didn't use Everyday Math or somthing like it. Our son was in public school in first grade using MathLand.

At the private school, I didn't sense that many parents really knew the issues. When my son got to 5th grade, we actually got to have a meeting about EM with teachers and parents. The idea of "balance" came up and it was all over.

What parents looked at most were where they kids went to high school after 8th grade. Since most went off to fancy prep schools (they were listed in the 8th grade graduation program next to each student), then they didn't worry about the curriculum. Some of us parents pushed those issue, but the school wasn't receptive.

momof4 said...

It sounds as if there might be a market in Westchester County for a private school that stressed real phonics, spelling, grammar,composition, high-quality fiction and non-fiction, real (Singapore etc.) math, serious content across all disciplines (CK or Wise Bauer's classical), explicit teaching to mastery, homogeneous grouping by subject, immediate help for struggling students and allowing/encouraging acceleration. With the existing demographics, I'd think kids would soar to great heights with that kind of program (without outside tutoring!) and class sizes could probably be larger than at public schools, with no problems.

Catherine Johnson said...

Since most went off to fancy prep schools (they were listed in the 8th grade graduation program next to each student), then they didn't worry about the curriculum.

The board member I met actually said that prep schools don't care about math.

They may not care about math, but they do care about ISEE scores.