When a Gifted Teacher Has to Jump Through Hoops Just to Keep His Job, Change Is Needed
By Jay Mathews
August 24, 2009
I am not a big fan of merit pay for high-performing teachers unless the entire school staff is rewarded. But I have no doubt that our current teacher pay upgrade and certification system, based largely on education school credits, is dumb and should be changed.
You disagree? Then let me introduce you to Jonathan Keiler, a social studies teacher at Bowie High School in Prince George's County, where school starts Monday.
It is difficult to argue that Keiler, 49, is anything but one of his county's best teachers. He is the only member of the Bowie High faculty with National Board Certification, having passed a competitive series of tests of his classroom skills that has become a gold standard for American educators. He has a bachelor's degree in philosophy and history from Salisbury University and a law degree from Washington and Lee University. He served four years as an Army Judge Advocate General officer, then was a partner in a private law firm in Bethesda until, as he puts it, he "got sick of law and became a social studies teacher at my alma mater."
He teaches a survey course called Practical Law, as well as Advanced Placement World History and AP Art History. More students signed up for his classes this year than he had periods to teach them. He coaches Bowie's Mock Trial team, the most successful in the county. He has published articles on military history and law in several magazines.
He hates the education school courses teachers must take to be certified and qualify for pay increases. He says they "are generally no more useful or interesting than watching paint dry." But he dutifully accumulated three credit hours at Bowie State University, six through the county's continuing professional education program and three for going through the National Board process. That was more than enough, he was told, for his standard certification.
Then earlier this month, the county's teacher staffing and certification office informed him that previous officials counted his credits wrong. If Keiler didn't somehow produce three extra credits by the end of September, he would be decertified and any pay increases he received associated with certification would be retroactively revoked...