New York is reportedly considering granting alternative certification programs the ability to award master's degrees to teachers.
I have distinctly mixed feelings on the plan. On the one hand, I can't imagine that TFA, NYCTF, or most other programs could do any worse than about 80% of the master's programs already in existence in NY. On the other hand, I'm not really sure how an organization other than a college/university can be given the power to grant academic degrees. Does anybody know of any other examples of this happening? Can hospitals award master's degrees in nursing? Can banks award master's degrees in accounting? Can businesses grant MBA's?
If not, this seems like a somewhat troubling precedent to set. One can easily imagine that these institutions and others could provide better vocational training than the average university in many cases, but I'm not sure that I'd want them handing out advanced degrees.
Or perhaps I missed something in the article and these alt cert programs can award degrees, but only in conjunction with a college/university? Some sort of hybrid program like that may allow for students to experience both the practical training these programs want to (and should) offer along with at least a little bit of study of child development and other more academic subjects.
I'm not an expert in anything higher ed related like this, but I can give you a small tidbit based on personal experience. I did a master's program through NYCTF at a local college. I'm not sure exactly how much influence NYCTF had over our curriculum, but I'm fairly certain the college had quite a bit of autonomy with setting syllabi and hiring instructors (we were taught almost exclusively by adjuncts). While I think the people at the college had their heart in the right place and were actually pretty competent, the program nonetheless failed to meet my expectations. 99% of the teachers in the program who I heard express an opinion wanted -- oftentimes very badly -- for their to be a greater emphasis on items that had a practical application in the classroom. One of my classmates convinced me that an education more focused on best practices and less focused on theory would have served us much better.
Looking back though, it's not that any of the theory and such that we studied was useless or should never have been presented to us -- it was more the case that in our (then) current situation (i.e. being thrown into the deep end), what we most needed was practical advice and demonstrations that we could copy in our own classrooms. And in part because we had more than we could chew on our plate, a lot of us tended to ignore anything other than these types of discussions. In retrospect, I'd say two things: 1.) I wish I'd learned more about some of things I ignored at the time, though I also wish I'd learned them at some other point in my life when I had time to pay attention to them; 2.) I can honestly say that the most valuable part of the program was getting together on a regular basis with other teachers in similar situations and discussing issues, oftentimes led by competent people who'd been in our shoes before.
Which, I suppose, is my long-winded way of saying that I can understand the motivation behind the possible rule change -- and I'd expect that other organizations would offer a superior product (at least in terms of immediate impact on classroom teaching). Heaven knows that there are a ton of things we could and should do better when training teachers, but I'm not sure that means we need to let anybody and everybody start awarding master's degrees.