School leaders in Arizona’s highest performing schools, particularly those in low-income areas, are on a mission to find the absolute best teachers to educate their students. They interview hundreds of candidates for a single position, as every teacher plays a precious role in the life of a child. What we have heard from all of our 'A' school leaders is that they know exactly who they are looking for, and that person is not always somebody who arrives with a state certification - but they do arrive with great preparation to be a teacher who improves the life of a student.
Our leaders also tell us that state regulations piled on state law about where a novice or "intern" teacher may teach do nothing to advance their successful models. While state regulators may believe that elementary teachers must teach all subjects in only one grade, our school leaders disagree. Many have led their students to much higher achievement by having teachers focus on one or two content areas across a number of grades.
At A for Arizona, we call that successful innovation.
As you can see in the above video, when asked to describe what they look for in a prospective educator, our 'A' school principals use words like character, competence, driven, track record of results, and expert in their field. Regardless of a teacher's certification status, Arizona’s best schools spend a great deal of time preparing their teachers for the classroom. They set expectations for instruction based on their school culture and values, unique student needs, and proven instructional strategies. What a principal knows will work far outweighs the importance of what an age-old and weary regulation thinks will work.
Senator Allen trusts these successful principals so much that her bill offers them the opportunity to grant certification to those teachers who prove their ability with students over a number of years. Great schools are the best professional development institutions we have, and no teacher with a proven record of student achievement should be denied a professional credential simply because their route to excellence was untraditional.
Whether on behalf of simple unfettered reciprocity with teachers coming to us from other states, or backing off of current unhelpful requirements for ALL Arizona teachers, A for Arizona will continue to make noise about the waste of time, money, and motivation our current certification rules impose.
As education professionals, we should be guided by what truly works. Policy must always follow proof; and we have that in Arizona. We are improving faster than almost any other state over the past decade. We can only sustain that growth by attracting and supporting our highly successful Arizona teachers and the leaders who hire them. Our incredible 'A' school leaders have brought us to this fabulous and unprecedented moment in Arizona education - let's keep their ideas about how they did that and what they need front and center in our policies.
When you observe truly great teachers in action, you won't know their certification status - you'll be blinded by the bright light of passionate dedication and commitment to seeing all students succeed. Our thanks to Senator Sylvia Allen for trusting the leadership in Arizona’s highly performing schools....and to the brilliant teachers we filmed who helped us tell this story.