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October 13, 2011
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Vail's Johnston: Raise status of teaching profession

VAIL, Colorado - Hiring teachers should not be limited to only those who've waded through state certification, says a state senator trying to change the education industry.

The best way to improve education is to recruit and retain effective teachers, says Mike Johnston, speaking Thursday morning at the Christiania in Vail.

The best way to recruit effective teachers is to create a pipeline, a feeder system. That pipeline does not necessarily need to run through college and university education systems, and the state certification process, Johnston said. Hiring should be done from a broader applicant pool.

"To attract top people and raise the status of the profession, it's necessary to increase pay and selectivity," Johnston said.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the Colorado School of Mines cannot teach science in public schools without a teaching certificate, Johnston said.

"If Bill Clinton wanted to teach history for a few years, he couldn't do it in my public school," Johnston said.

Good teachers can account for up 70 percent of student effectiveness, but the certification process can limit the number of top applicants, Johnston said. Open up the field and you increase the number of highly qualified applicants, he said.

"Teachers need to know that there are 80 more people who want that job," Johnston said.

But if you're going to get better people, you have to pay them accordingly.

"Increased status ought to come with increased compensation," Johnston said.

Education is important because we all have to do it, Johnston said.

"Kindergarten through 12 education is the one mandatory thing everyone must do," Johnston said.

When Oakland, Calif., mandated smaller class sizes and had to quickly hire hundreds of new teachers, certification made no difference in student performance. Students performed about the same in classes with certified teachers, teachers licensed under alternative programs and teachers with emergency licenses, Johnston said.

America is in the middle of global pack when it comes to education, Johnston said. The fix is not complicated, says Eric Hanushek, a Hoover Institute Fellow with Stanford University.

"He found that getting rid of the bottom 5 percent of teachers and replacing them with average performers would put America back on top," Johnston said.

Finland has the world's No. 1 education system, where students have less homework and spend less time with their teachers than U.S. students, and teachers have up to 45 students in a classroom.

And while he was at it, Johnston advocated for both the statewide education tax increase (Proposition 103) and the local education tax increase (3B).

"We've told educators to tighten their belts, but you can only tighten them so far before you start vomiting," Johnston said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Oct 13, 2011 09:58PM Published Oct 13, 2011 09:55PM Copyright 2011 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.