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Make way for talented teachers

Everyone is responsible for making our schools great, from parents and students to administrators.

But above all, great schools need great teachers—and great teachers don’t always come from the same background. Some excellent teachers earn their certification through non-traditional routes in other states, and they are eager to bring their talents to New York classrooms.

It sounds simple enough. But surprisingly, there are multiple hurdles for a teacher from another state to become certified in New York.

Under New York’s current teacher certification reciprocity guidelines, in order to become certified to teach in New York State if relocating from another state, a teacher must either have taught for three years within the previous seven years, or come through a teacher certification program approved by the New York State Education Department.

Put yourself in the shoes of a high-quality, out-of-state teacher who wants to come to work here. They look into the details and learn about current requirements. Some are discouraged and stay in their state; however, others are determined to find acceptable certification programs to go through. Here comes another hurdle: the list of acceptable certification programs is limited and does not include alternative certification programs in other states.

These barriers would be understandable if alternate certification programs weren’t effective. But they are. A 2005 study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, comparing the effectiveness of teachers from traditional backgrounds versus those with alternative education backgrounds in New York City, found no difference in teacher effectiveness between the two. In fact, the study found that in math, Teach For America corps members, the majority of whom attend alternative certification programs, were slightly more effective than traditional teachers.

By continuing to have restrictive certification laws, we’re violating the golden rule of recruiting, which is to make it as easy as possible for outstanding recruits to join an organization. And we’re losing these great teachers to other states. We need to make it easier for these talented teachers to enter New York.

If we make it easier for great teachers to get into our classrooms we will make it easier for all of New York’s schools to go from good to better to truly great.

Priscilla W. Guo is a 2012 School Reform Blogging Fellow for NYCAN. She is a sophomore at Hunter College High School in New York City, where she participates in the debate team and Term Council. She also founded HUNICEF, a high school UNICEF club that educates, advocates and fundraises for children around the world.