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Why Strong K12 Teacher Certification is Important

About a week ago New York State's new regulation creating a K12 CS teacher certification went live. Just the other day I was honored to be interviewed by Matt Flamm of Crain's New York in a follow up piece about it.

Having K12 CS teacher certification is big and having quality programs that lead to certification is HUGE. In my view, it's a game changer.

Let's Focus on high school, my wheelhouse.

From a course offerings point of view it's the wild west. I don't mean this as a bad thing, it's just that there's a huge range of offerings from AP to home brew, physical computing, game based, cyber security, you name it, there's a curriculum. The long and short of this is that schools need teachers to teach all of these experiences. Without a strong certification pathway we're going to be stuck with the current training based model where teachers are trained to deliver canned curricula rather than truly teach. With strong teacher preparation programs teachers will be prepared not only to deliver all the existing curricula but, arguable more importantly design their own learning experiences appropriate for the populations they work with.

This is important and alone would make having CS certification worthwhile but to me the BIG win is that it creates a viable career path.

People say we'll never find enough CS teachers because the tech industry pays so well. I've never believed that. We find math teachers even though many could flee to finance and chem teachers in spite of big pharma's call so why can't we find CS teachers? Because we've never provided a path into the profession and a viable career track.

Certification means that over time schools will be able to build CS teachers and the discipline will be treated as the other subjects. Prior to certification, a CS teacher might be cut if a school's math department downsized. With certification, the career track for a CS teacher is the same as the track for any other teacher.

It also means that young people starting out who are interested in both teaching and computer science will have a way of getting into the profession - something that has never before existed.

Having CS certification alone won't woo a plethora of current tech professionals into teaching but over time, we'll start to have CS Ed majors or CS majors pursuing CS ED Masters degrees and entering the profession. This won't happen in a press or election cycle but it will happen.

This all hinges on quality prep programs. I think I've hit the sweet spot with what I've designed at Hunter. The critical components are of course content and pedagogy. Teacher candidates must have both sufficient depth and breadth in the subject and all the pedagogical content knowledge that comes along with it. I don't agree with the common approach of taking a course to teach a course - that is, having courses like "APCS - Principles for teachers" or "APCS - A for teachers." I want my teachers to be able to teach any reasonable curriculum or design their own so we'll be rolling out courses that examine the commonly offerd curricula but prepare teachers for a whole lot more.

It's been an exciting week in NY CS Ed and there's a lot more to come.

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