Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville, sponsored a bill to give the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence the authority to certify professional people looking for careers in education in Missouri.
"We've had legislation for a while to introduce (our program) as an option targeting career changers," ABCTE spokesperson Colleen Corliss said.
Through ABCTE, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., that's funded through federal grants, individuals can obtain a teaching certificate without having a bachelor's degree in education. Certification is not granted, however, for early childhood education, elementary education and special education.
Corliss said this bill is working its way through the Missouri legislature for the second year in a row. Seven other states already have legislation allowing certification through the organization's program.
"The benefit is that it increases the pool of potential teachers," she said. "It attracts people from other industries and especially works to find people in high-need areas like math and science."
Ridgeway said her proposal spawned from concern over the growing teacher shortage. According to the U.S. Education Department, Missouri saw a shortage of teachers in several subjects, including science and mathematics, during 2005-06, the most recent year such data was available.
"This is not meant to be a total solution," Ridgeway said. "This is one piece to the puzzle."
DeeAnn Aull, a spokesperson for the Missouri National Teachers' Association, said a process is already in place to handle the declining number of teachers.
"We have solutions to deal with a shortage," Aull said. "ABCTE can't do anything to help a shortage that we don't already do."
Aull cited the Temporary Authorization Certification, a program through the state Education Department, as a better alternative. The TAC option allows people with a bachelor's degree to teach junior high and high school courses in their area of study.
A person working through the TAC program receives a mentor and can begin teaching immediately. At the end of one year, the school district does a performance-based evaluation on the candidate. After three years and successful completion of all the program's requirements, a person will receive professional certification.
Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, voted against Ridgeway's proposal at a committee meeting.
"We already have one of the better teacher certification processes in the country," he said. "The current system works fine."
Although the bill requires people obtaining certification through ABCTE to have a mentor and a regular performance-based evaluation, Aull said it cuts key parts to certification.
"It tests content knowledge but not the ability to teach," she said. "It allows a person with alternative certification to enter at the professional certification level."
But Ridgeway said her proposed program is better because it it "front-loaded."
"Teachers are armed with much more education," she said. "People can get their pedagogy classes while still working their current job."
The bill requires a person in this program to spend two weeks in a classroom with a mentor before receiving certification.
"People need to know if teaching is suitable for them before they change careers," Ridgeway said.
Graham said ABCTE does not do enough.
"There's a lot more involved with being a teacher than knowledge of the subject," he said. "They really have not been trained as well as they need to be."
Ridgeway said that should her bill become law, nothing will happen to the processes in place now.
"This is not meant to replace any current programs and will not replace any current programs," she said. "This is just about providing another option."