|Back to September Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 188||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||SEPTEMBER 2001|
|Betting on Teacher Re-certification|
CHICAGO, IL - Rather than boosting knowledge and teaching skills, some teacher re-certification courses focus on activities such as racetrack gambling, Tai Chi classes and massage techniques. An investigative report by the Chicago Tribune (8-12-01) noted that, although the state Board of Education is supposed to oversee the program, it "does not even know what classes are being offered."
One 15-credit hour class is called "Probabilities in Gaming." On a hot Saturday in July, 45 Chicago-area teachers went to the Arlington Park racetrack, had lunch, and then learned how to read the racing guide and calculate the payout. Before placing bets, they talked about betting odds and how to pick a winner, such as considering the age of the horse and the days since his last race.
The final assignment was to create a math problem for their students and discuss it. When the teachers departed, however, the classroom math problem had not come up. Professor David Spangler, who taught the course, claimed that a day at the race track gets teachers excited about math. He told the Tribune: "The goal is to take math out of the classroom. This is math in the real world."
The high school and middle school educators enrolled in the class claimed it was a beneficial professional development tool. One teacher commented, "I think it's a boost to a classroom when you have active stuff kids can do." Another teacher asserted: "Kids all gamble nowadays, so teaching probability this way makes it more fun for them and I think they can understand it better."
Other "development" classes held earlier this year at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois awarded credits for Tai Chi and massage therapy. A masseur calling himself "Magic Fingers" taught 25 teachers the finer points of back rubs, including how to knead kinks out of necks and lower stress levels. In another course on the university campus, Tai Chi expert Al Lawrence led 30 teachers through a Tai Chi workout.
The rules for teacher re-certification specify that teachers must accumulate a prescribed number of credit hours. Other activities that can fulfill the requirement include attending workshops, serving on statewide committees, writing magazine articles, and participating in union activities.
According to the Education Intelligence Agency (EIA), the Tribune article missed "the even bigger scandal: teacher professional development credit for union activism." EIA lists teacher development courses in that category to include "Parliamentary Procedures, Having a Say in Public Policy ('Learn how to mold those policy decisions by effective lobbying and political action')," "Dealing with the Media ('Learn to stay on message and not let reporters lead you astray')," and "Bargaining and the Budget," which is part of a "School Finance" course. Local committees decide whether the credits claimed by the teachers should count, but the teacher unions dominate those committees and the appeals committees.
The teacher re-certification system in Illinois was instituted a year ago, part of a plan that began in 1995 amid the national push for education reform.