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Teacher Certification and the Professional Status of Teaching in North America: The New Battleground for Public Education

reviewed by Carol F. Karpinski - August 02, 2012

coverTitle: Teacher Certification and the Professional Status of Teaching in North America: The New Battleground for Public Education
Author(s): Peter P. Grimmett, Jon C. Young, & Claude Lessard (eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1617355755, Pages: 236, Year: 2011
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As the title suggests, teacher certification and the professional status of teaching are under siege. In this timely volume, which should capture the attention of educators at all levels, Grimmett, Young, and Lessard explore how neoliberalist economic rationalism interfaces with professionalization in the United States and Canada.  Arguing that a shift has occurred from a time when professionalism was aligned with the public good and individuality ruled, the authors explore the move in another direction. Nation-states, pressured by supranational forces, are in decline, and have reformulated and embraced an economic rationality that promotes standardization to the detriment of the professional status of teaching.

The authors explore professionalizing the practice and status of teaching by considering the regulations and conditions affecting certification and accreditation in the United States and in Canada. They suggest trends and changes in who will teach, what will be their qualifications, and who and what will affect the process. All have extensive writings on the topic and the reader benefits from a well-organized and documented account of a complex topic.

A critical introductory chapter in which the authors contrast “public interest theory” and “capture theory” sets the stage for a discussion of conditions in the United States and in Canada. Public interest theory means that "regulation protects the public from unqualified and incompetent practitioners” (p. 3). Public interest theory links public interest and legislative action, rightly or wrongly, and its reformulation has led to an alternate viewpoint represented by “capture theory.” “Capture theory holds that regulatory bodies come to be captured (usually, but not always, for economic and political reasons) by the professions they regulate, leading to attempts to increase economic benefits by restricting supply” (p. 5). The authors explain the rise of neoliberalism in the past thirty years and how the “neo-liberalist macro-policy context encourages a form of postmodern doublespeak” (p. 13) that supports public interest while touting regulation. This represents a profound change that allows the political discourses to undermine and outstrip professional dialogue and action. The authors warn the reader that this shift is “colonizing the professions, reconfiguring them as an occupation that lacks a distant body of specialized theoretical knowledge that needs to be acquired, at least in part, prior to beginning practice” (p. 16).

As for the main divisions of the book, Part I is devoted to the United States and Part II to Canada (provinces are dealt with separately). As the authors examine professionalism and deregulation in the United States, they also examine the history and rationale of alternative programs. Citing a report of the National Research Council in 2010, they contend that research does not provide a clear-cut answer to the effectiveness of the traditional and alternative routes to certification but that competition between these groupings has oversimplified the complexity of teacher preparation and has diluted the attention that should be given to quality teaching (p. 40). Neoliberalists strongly support alternative routes to certification because they align quality with market efficiency, competition, local control, and choice. Regulation, professional or governmental, is considered flawed.  

The authors offer a concise exploration of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and how it represents the rise of a “strong audit culture” (p. 56). They explore research on NCLB and stress the need for involvement by educators to take part in policy discussions. They do a fine job of succinctly explaining the complexities of regional and national teacher education accreditation in the United States and bringing the reader up to date with the consolidation of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC).

In Part Two, the authors examine teacher certification and accreditation in Canada and clearly reiterate that neoliberalism is neither uncontested nor uniform in application. Political, historical, and cultural variations have seen teacher certification and accreditation play out differently in the United States than in Canadian provinces.

In Canada, the authors argue that the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) (2009) is a “Trojan horse” which imperils the professionalization of teachers (p. 79). Since 1996, the Ontario College of Teachers shares responsibility with the provincial government for the regulation of teacher certification. Ontario has some distinct characteristics contributing to a glut of teachers in the province. Two significant factors are the 220 percent increase in US border college recruitment and the 175 percent increase in incoming internationally educated teachers (p. 107). The later group is abetted in the pursuit of Canadian certification by the Labour Mobility Agreement of the AIT. Also, online teacher education programs have increased the oversupply of teachers and challenged traditional certification methods.

In the discussion of teachers’ certification in Québec province, Claude Lessard stresses how the dominance of the market mentality amid financial and economic globalization eases the path for regulation. Important to his discussion is the concept of policy convergence, which holds that societies are becoming more alike in “structures, processes, and performances” (p. 114). Universities and the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir and du Sport have a shared responsibility for the teacher education system. The matter has yet to play out fully in Québec but the Conseil Supérieur de l’Éducation believes that, in a province with a rigorous teacher preparation system, professional control may be in decline or be lost.

As in Québec, Manitoba has yet to see the full effect of the AIT. Manitoba was the first province to agree to comply with the Labour Mobility feature of the AIT.

The authors observe that Alberta and British Columbia seem “to be historically comfortable with the movement into their respective provinces of teachers prepared elsewhere” (p. 156). However, that degree of satisfaction is changing and today British Columbia appears reluctant to lose control of teacher certification due to the strength of the College of Teachers in British Columbia. The opposite is true of Alberta where the provincial government has more power.

The authors have presented an account of these conditions in the hope that they can contribute to the maintenance of the professional status of teachers and strong public school systems in the United States and Canada. In the United States the battleground centers on the form of accreditation and is dramatically in full view, whereas in Canada the attacks are not as overt and emanate from a free trade agenda, i.e., labor mobility. Ultimately, the authors see those embracing neo-liberalist thinking as using their economic and social forms of capital to outmaneuver educators’ cultural capital (p. 170) to deprofessionalize “a worthy profession” (p. 170). They “call on teacher organizations, trustees, and faculties of education to wake up and engage with these issues” (p. 170).  If, indeed, this is a battle, can the tide be turned?

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: August 02, 2012
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16838, Date Accessed: 1/25/2022 7:00:16 PM

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About the Author
  • Carol Karpinski
    Farleigh Dickinson University
    E-mail Author
    CAROL F. KARPINSKI is an Associate Professor at the Peter Sammartino School of Education at Fairleigh Dickinson University and Director of the Master of Arts in the Teaching program. Her research centers on educational leadership and teacher organizations. In addition to several book chapters and her recently published book, A visible company of professionals: African Americans and the National Education Association during the Civil Rights Movement, her articles have appeared in Urban Education, the Journal of Educational Administration, Paedagogica Historica, and the Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership.
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