What qualifications are required?
The only qulaification required is that you be a parent with your child's best interest at heart.
Myth of Teachers Qualifications"
by Chris Klicka, Senior Counsel for
Home School Legal Defense Association
— Dr. Donald Ericksen, UCLA
Most education officials
publicly claim that teachers need special “qualifications” in order to be
effective. As a result, public education organizations often promote legislation
or an interpretation of the law which would require homeschool parents to have
one of three qualifications: 1) a teacher certificate, 2) a college degree, or
3) pass a “teacher’s exam.” Although this seems reasonable on the surface,
such requirements not only violate the right of parents to teach their children
as guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments, but virtually all academic
research documents that there is no positive correlation between teacher
qualifications (especially teacher certification requirements) and student
Later in his testimony, Dr. Peavey explained that he has found only one valid way of identifying a good teacher:
Dr. Peavey concluded his testimony with practical examples of excellent student achievement results by students who were being taught by their parents, most without degrees or certificates. He explained that many studies demonstrate that home-schooled children “commonly score a year or more above their peers in regular schools on standard measures of achievement.”5
Another expert, Dr. Donald Ericksen, professor of education for the University of California at Los Angeles, stated in a recent interview:
In a well known case before the Michigan Supreme Court concerning a Christian school’s challenge to the state’s teacher certification requirement, Dr. Ericksen testified as an expert witness on teacher certification. There he explained that extensive research has established that no significant correlation exists between certification (or teacher qualifications) and student learning, and that student testing is a far superior method of determining teacher effectiveness. Dr. Lanier, an expert who testified on the side of the state in favor of teacher certification, admitted under oath that she was unaware of any verifiable evidence establishing any correlation between teacher certification requirements and student learning or teacher competence.7
Two education researchers, R. W. Heath and M. A. Nielson surveyed forty two studies of “competency-based” teacher education. Their findings were that no empirical evidence exists to establish a positive relation between those programs and student achievement.8
Four other education researchers, L. D. Freeman, R. E. Flodan, R. Howsan, and D. C. Corrigan, did separate studies in the effectiveness of teacher certification requirements. They all concluded that there is no significant relation between teacher certification and student performance in the classroom.9
The 1990 Science Report Card surveyed almost twenty thousand students in grades four, eight, and twelve. The survey demonstrates that there is no relationship between the science achievement of students and the certification level or advanced degrees of their teachers. For instance, eighth graders taught by teachers who had finished six or more college physics courses had virtually the same proficiency as those teachers who had no courses in physics.l0
C. Emily Feistritzer, director of the private National Center for Education Information, claimed that she does not know “of a single study that says because a teacher has gone through this or that program, he or she is a better teacher.” Supporters of teacher training programs “argue eloquently that teachers need to be grounded in all of these things, but there has yet to be a study that shows that in fact this is the case.”11
In July 1999, the Thomas Fordham Foundation published a study entitled; “Better Teachers, Better Schools,” a 250 page study edited by Chester Finn & Marci Kanstoroom. This study report was broken into several sections including, “Teacher Licensing and Student Achievement.” The researchers employed data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS), a nationally representative survey of about 24,000 eighth-grade students conducted in the spring of 1988. A subset of these students were resurveyed in tenth (1990) and twelfth grades (1992).
The following two questions were the key questions of the study:
After careful comparison of the teachers’ certification or lack of certification with the students’ performance, their findings confirmed the results of the many other studies the teachers’ unions do not like to talk about. The authors explain:
The study also found that having a degree in education has no impact on student science test scores and, in mathematics, having a BA in education actually has a statistically negative impact on scores in math!
All the studies demonstrate that parents’ “hands-on” degree in homeschooling their own children is much more effective than spending all that time for a BA in education.
John Chubb, a fellow at the Brookings Institute (a liberal think tank), extensively studied various popular reforms including the push to professionalize teaching, toughen teacher certification standards, and implement more extensive teacher evaluation systems. As a result, he authored a book with Terry Moe, Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools on the subject of education reform. Mr. Chubb found “no correlation between student achievement and any of the variables on which school reformers have been concentrating so much time, effort, and money.” He continues, “There is little reason to believe” that these actions will improve student achievement and “there is considerable reason to believe they will fail.” 13
Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute released a report entitled, A Nationwide Study of Home Education: Family Characteristics, Legal Matters, and Student Achievement. This was a study of over two thousand homeschool families in all fifty states. The research revealed that there was no positive correlation between the state regulation of homeschools and the home-schooled students’ performance. The study compared homeschoolers in three groups of states representing various levels of regulation. Group 1 represented the most restrictive states, such as Michigan, which at the time of the study required homeschoolers to use certified teachers; Group 2 represented slightly less restrictive states including North Dakota; and Group 3 represented unregulated states, such as Texas and California, which have no teacher qualifications. Dr. Ray concluded:
Furthermore, this same study demonstrated that only 13.9 percent of the mothers (who are the primary teachers) had ever been certified teachers. The study found that there was no difference in students’ total reading, total math, and total language scores based on the teacher certification status of their parents:
Whether the homeschool parent had a teaching certificate, a college degree, or a high school diploma or less, did not make any difference — all their children scored, on the average, in the 80th percentile.
This study has been confirmed by two other studies of the qualifications of homeschool parents. Dr. J. F. Jakestraw surveyed the student performance of homeschoolers in Alabama and reported:
Jon Wartes performed a similar study on homeschoolers over three years in the state of Washington and reached the same conclusion. 17
On the whole, homeschoolers’ achievements are ranked above average on standardized achievement tests as demonstrated by numerous studies. Dr. Ray and others have found that only 35 percent of teaching mothers have a college degree or higher, and yet their children score no higher on standardized achievement tests than those being taught by mothers without a college degree.
The Evidence is in: Teacher Qualifications Do Not Make Better Students
Nearly all existing research on teacher qualifications or state regulations demonstrates that they have no significant relation to student performance. In fact, teacher qualification requirements have no positive correlation with even teacher performance. In the end, as the Coleman Report (U.S. Office of Education, 1964) pointed out, families are the most important factors in determining a student’s academic performance.
Statutory Trend Lessening Teacher Qualification Requirements
The trend across the United States is to remove all teacher qualifications standards for homeschoolers. The emphasis seems to be on protecting parental rights and, in several states, focusing on student performance through an annual test or portfolio evaluation.
Currently, forty-one states do not require homeschool parents to have any specific qualifications. Homeschoolers in these states can homeschool without proof of any particular educational qualifications. In fact, of the nine states that do have qualification requirements, eight of them require only a GED or high school diploma. The eight states which require only a high school diploma or a GED are: GA, NC, NM, OH, PA, SC, TN, and WV. Only North Dakota requires a college degree or the passage of a "teacher's test."
South Carolina previously required a college degree or passage of a teacher’s examination. Michael Farris of HSLDA challenged the law, and on December 9, 1991, the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down the test, making a high school diploma the only qualification necessary for parents to homeschool.18 New Mexico required a Bachelor’s Degree, but this requirement was repealed due to efforts of the grass roots homeschoolers and HSLDA. Michigan’s statute, the last to require homeschool parents to have teaching certificates or use a person with a certificate to teach the children, recently changed. On May 25, 1993, the Michigan Supreme Court struck down the teacher certification requirement as unconstitutional in People v. De]onge, a case I handled for eight years. Many of the other states which formerly had a law like Michigan’s also abandoned such teacher qualifications requirements.19
Major Cases on Teacher Qualifications for Home Schools and Private Schools
Below are summaries of several cases in various states that dealt with the issue of teacher qualifications and found teacher certification requirements or college degree requirements to be excessive or unconstitutional.
In New York, according to its compulsory attendance statute in section 3204, instruction “elsewhere” must be given by a “competent” teacher. In the case In re Franz the court interpreted “competent” to not mean “certified.”20 Furthermore, homeschool regulations adopted in June 1988 do not require homeschool parents to have any qualifications. Homeschool parents are “competent” as long as they file a notice of intent, quarterly reports of progress, and test results every other year beginning in third grade.
New Jersey law allows “equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school.”21 Regarding the interpretation of the word “equivalent,” the New Jersey Supreme Court in the Massa case stated: “...perhaps the New Jersey Legislature intended the word equivalent to mean taught by a certified teacher elsewhere than at school. However, I believe there are teachers today teaching in various schools in New Jersey who are not certified.... Had the legislature intended such a requirement, it would have said so.”22
Ohio law requires homeschool teachers to be “qualified.”23 State Board of Education regulations define “qualified” as a GED or high school diploma.24 Prior to these regulations, in Ohio v. Whisner, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down Ohio’s Minimum Standards which required teacher certification, stating, “Equally difficult to imagine, is a state interest sufficiently substantial to sanction abrogation of appellants’ [parents’] liberty to direct the education of their children.”25 The Court pointed out that the state “did not attempt to justify [prove] its interest in enforcing the minimum standards [which included teacher certification requirements] as applied to non-public religious schools.”26
On May 25, 1993, Michigan’s teacher certification requirement for homeschools was struck down by the highest court of the state. In a four-to-three decision of the Michigan Supreme Court, four Justices found:
Indiana presently allows homeschools under its law which exempts children from compulsory attendance if they are “provided with instruction equivalent to that given in public schools.”28 A federal court in the Mazenac case, when trying to interpret the word “equivalent,” stated: “...it is now doubtful that the requirements of a formally licensed or certified teacher...would pass constitutional muster.”29 The Court would not interpret “equivalent instruction” as requiring certified teachers because of the constitutional problems involved.
In Massachusetts, “a child who is otherwise instructed in a manner approved in advance by the superintendent...” is exempt from attending public school.30 When establishing guidelines for approving homeschools, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court stated, in the Charles case, that the superintendents or local public school committees could not require the parents to be certified or have college degrees. The Court said: “While we recognize that teachers in public schools must be certified, certification would not be appropriately required for parents under a homeschool proposal.... Nor must parents have college or advanced academic degrees.”31 In fact, the homeschool mother in this case, in whose favor the Court ruled, did not even have a high school diploma.32
In Kentucky, homeschools operate as private schools. When private schools were required to use certified teachers, even though the statute was unclear, the Kentucky Supreme Court, in the Rudasill case, ruled that teacher certification did not apply to private schools and could not be mandated.33
In Hawaii, according to its regulations, “parents teaching their children at home shall be deemed qualified instructors.”34 In other words, parents are qualified because they are parents. No certain degrees or diplomas are necessary for parents to be able to successfully educate their children.
In South Dakota, a child is allowed to be “otherwise provided with instruction.”35 The statute further explains that “the individuals [who give instruction] are not required to be certified.”
In North Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa, teacher certification requirements were upheld by the courts in the Shaver, Faith Baptist, and Fellowship Baptist cases.36 In each of these cases no expert testimony or evidence was given to prove teacher certification was necessary or essential for children to be educated. In fact, the state could also not prove, with evidence, that teacher certification was the “least restrictive means” for children to be educated.
Furthermore, the legislatures in all three of these states have mooted these cases and vindicated home-schooling parents by repealing the teacher certification requirements. Nebraska and Iowa have created an option in their compulsory attendance statutes to allow parents to homeschool without any qualifications. North Dakota allows parents to pass a “teacher test” or produce a college degree in order to opt out of teacher certification.37
The Need For Teacher Qualifications is a Myth
Educational research does not indicate any positive correlation between teacher qualifications and student performance. Many courts have found teacher qualification requirements on homeschoolers to be too excessive or not appropriate. The trend in state legislatures across the country indicates an abandonment of teacher qualification requirements for homeschool teachers. In fact, Americans, in general, are realizing that the necessity of teacher qualifications is a myth. The teachers’ unions and other members of the educational establishment make up the small minority still lobbying for teacher certification in order to protect their disintegrating monopoly on education.
ABC’s of Reform: Give Parents a Choice,” Insight, 24 September 1990,
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