An Idaho engineer will become a math teacher, if he passes a test on his knowledge of the subject.
BOISE, Idaho — Walter Lutes, of Boise, Idaho, is trying to become the first teacher in America certified by solely taking a $400 computerized test — no education degree, no student teaching — shaving three years off his career change from mechanical engineer to math teacher.
(It doesn’t take three years for a college graduate to complete teacher training, unless he’s working at his old job and taking teacher ed classes part-time.) Lutes will be tested by a new group, the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence. His classroom performance will be monitored by classroom cameras; mentors will give him feedback via e-mail.
Many school districts are desperate for math and science teachers who know their subjects. They’re using alternative certification to reduce the barriers to mid-career professionals and early retirees. However, so far, only Idaho and Pennsylvania have decided to accept the American Board’s test.
Of course, not everyone who knows a subject knows how to teach it. But it’s hard to teach well if the teacher doesn’t understand the subject. Poor kids are the most likely to be taught by teachers who didn’t study the subjects they’re covering, especially in math, physics and chemistry.