Monday, March 17, 2008

The Questions of Credentials

A post from Synapostasy called The Littlest Godwin and Other Education Stories. In it he says the following:

A week or so ago, a panel of three judges of a California appellate court ruled unanimously over a child welfare case that parents in California needed teaching or tutoring credentials in order to homeschool their children. Now, I don't know much about this specific case or homeschooling in general, but on the face of it this seems perfectly rational to me.

I suppose I object to the use of rational. Rational is not the right word, especially when you're using a phrase like, "on the face of it." Rational implies reasoning and a more involved thought process then what you'd get by simply taking a glance at the surface of an issue.

The use of "rational" aside, Aaron got me wondering what would be the questions you'd have about to ask to determine if credentials would be the proper thing to demand of homeschooling parents. I came up with three;

What do credentials offer?

What concerns do we have about homeschoolers?

Does credentialing answer those concerns?

I'm going to leave that open for the moment. Maybe Aaron will come over and over his thoughts and anyone reading this is certainly welcome to offer their answers to the question.


sunniemom said...

Ditto- there is nothing rational about assuming that credentials prove anything. There are many vocations that require credentials and degrees, but yet the news is full of incidents of incompetence, mistakes, and mismanagement in any field you care to name.

I can understand that certain specialties require training and experience, and I am happy that when I sit in the dentist's chair, his Wall of Fame is covered with plaques touting his academic achievements, but there has never been any evidence that certifications in teaching guarantee a quality education for the child.

Fact is, given the materials and some freedom, kids can and will teach themselves. You don't need credentials to stay the heck out of the way. :D

Lynn said...

In my experience, the "homeschoolers need credentials and oversight" arguments often follow panicky statements about "religious indoctrination" in homeschools - as if one had anything to do with the other. I won't litter your blog with the many examples that refute that argument ;) (Just the one about private religious schools that hire uncredentialed teachers - and teach dominionism and creationism -goes on for pages!)

concernedCTparent said...

I had a really long comment yesterday that took me awhile to articulate, and POOF it vanished. I was so peeved I couldn't revist this until today. So here we go...

hat do credentials offer? Well, considering that upwards of 40% are teaching in California with an "emergency permit", they don't offer very much at all. I cannot imagine a cogent argument of why a parent would be held to a higher standard then some random person holding an emergency permit.

In order to secure an emergency permit all you need is a baccalaureate or higher degree from a regionally-accredited college or university, a passing score on a very easy exam of math and verbal skills (CBEST) which is a very low level test of basic skills. (A couple of moves ago I easily secured an emergency credential) You don't even have to pass it all at once as you can re-take the test until the combination of your scores is adequate. However, I would be worried if a teacher had to do this as the test should not require the taker to have attended or complete college - it's that easy.

Then you need fingerprinting clearance to prove that you have no criminal record and that they have no provable reason why you would be unsafe around children. Due diligence of a sort. That's it.

Now, in order to turn that emergency credential into a full credential, you just need to secure a teaching job and re-certify at the appropriate time. Over time that permit allows you to become credentialed.

Conclusion, it doesn't offer very much at all.

What concerns do we have about homeschoolers?
Well, that's the thing. Considering how many students are not making adequate progress, dropping out of school altogether, or spending their days warehoused at school, I really think we should be more concerned with fixing our public school system than whatever a parent determines is best for his/her child. The reality is that those of us who choose to homeschool are very lucky to have the opportunity and means to do so. Not everyone is so lucky. I'd be more worried about all the children WHO ARE NOT HOMESCHOOLED.

Does credentialing answer those concerns?
Well, NO. It does not address those concers very well at all. I you read the California court ruling, you will note that the judge is very concerned with the social aspect of homeschooling. It is "the court’s opinion that keeping the children at home deprived them of situations where (1) they could interact with people outside the family, (2) there are people who could provide help if something is amiss in the children’s lives, and (3) they could develop emotionally in a broader world than the arents’ 'cloistered' setting."

Again, I worry more about the majority of children in public schools when it comes to these issues. Too many children slip through the cracks because (1)they interact with negative influences at an impressionable time in their lives, (2) in overcrowded, overwhelmed classrooms and schools, the chances of the child having someone recognize that something is amiss and do something effective to remedy the situation are quite slim, (3)the number of children devasted emotionally in the public school setting surely outnumber the rare cases of children not developing "emotionally in a broader world than the parent's 'cloistered' setting." And of course, there's the all important question of whom, exactly, gets to define what is or is not appropriate development.

Dawn said...

Oh wow. I should just post questions and let you answer on every post! :) I think you nailed it.