Savannah Schools: You Shouldn't Have to Major in Education to Be a Teacher

The system is pushing an alternative pathway in order to fill vacancies.


U.S. Department of Education / Flickr

School districts nationwide are facing a problem: While student enrollment is increasing, fewer teachers are available to address the need. As a result of a negative perception of teaching and relatively low salaries, fewer college students are becoming teachers, and current teachers are leaving the profession for similar reasons.

The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System in Georgia is no exception to this. The state's 10th largest school district announced in March that it had 450 job openings it needed to fill before the next school year begins, and it is struggling to find applicants with education degrees.

As a result, the district is focusing on publicizing the existence of alternative pathways, including the Georgia Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy. In order to complete the program, applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree with a minimum overall GPA of 2.5, passing scores on two separate educator exams, and a satisfactory criminal background check.

It can take up to three years to fully complete the program—but, importantly, it allows one to work as a teacher throughout the process.

This initiative has existed since 2000, but Heather Bilton, the school system's talent acquisition coordinator, said the district needed to be more proactive in getting these programs advertised. "Our goal is to get the best teachers," Bilton says. "But with the traditional pipeline declining significantly over recent years, we had to make sure to publicize all pathways."

The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System consists mainly of Title I institutions. In recent years, its schools have struggled to keep up with changing academic standards and performance expectations from the state Department of Education, leaving little room for any significant reform efforts. Amid these challenges, Bilton says alternative pathway teachers can actually help improve students' performance.

"They bring real life connections," Bilton said. "For example, if I am a retired military person, I can use my past experiences in working on planes to bring math to life and better help kids. It makes them more engaged in the classroom."

Ernie Lee is one of those teachers who came in through an alternative pathway. Before becoming a history teacher at Windsor High School, Lee was a lawyer for more than 20 years, an experience he said is an advantage in his new career.

"I had a lot of life experience that helped me become a better teacher," Lee says. "I did learn some of this through alternative teaching prep, but a lot of my success is thanks to my lawyer experience communicating with people."

Lee said several events in 2007 led him to want to make a "lasting contribution on the community," and he began to reconsider his high school dream of becoming a teacher. "I first started as a substitute in 2008, and realized I could really connect with students," Lee said. "My rigor is tough, but I also take out time to know my students. By talking to them and making sure they aren't invisible, it helps them. I have to do everything in my power to help them graduate, including treating them with respect."

Lee's time as an educator has been lauded. He was named the 2016 Georgia Teacher of the Year for his dedication not just to history, but also to his students. In fact, three out of the last six Georgia Teachers of the Year have gone through alternative routes to becoming certified.

Not everyone is thrilled about the system allowing those without an education degree to teach. Bilton said there have been concerns over a possible decline of educator preparedness, but notes that the school district is not changing its requirements to fill the positions. Not only do assessments eliminate weaker candidates, but schools also provide mentors to those starting their second career. 

"Rigor is not being lowered," Bilton said. "What is increasing is the job pool of teacher applicants so schools can pick the best people for the job. Four hundred and fifty vacancies is the normal amount we have, and just as many already certified teachers will apply for [them] as those who are trying to become certified."

The former lawyer, Lee, understands some of the concerns with alternative teaching programs, but believes the benefits of bringing people into the profession later are worth it. "Traditional teachers may know typical teaching philosophy, but there is something about real world experience that can make better teachers," he says.

NEXT: Who Can Free Traders Vote for in 2016? Trump, Hillary Are Dead-Set Against It.

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  1. I really don’t see the need for someone to have formal education if their teaching k-4 anyway.

    1. Meh. Probably good to have K-4 teachers finish HS with at least a strong general diploma. Middle school – teachers should have two-year degrees. Four-year degrees for HS teachers.

      1. This is probably a good policy.

      2. Really? I think a reasonably (drink!) intelligent 12 yr old can teach a Kindergartner to read. Mom was an intelligent HS grad from a hilljack Appalachian shithole and my sister was exactly 3 yrs older than me (same birthday).

        Mom had to beg just to get me into K-school 3yrs after my sister (they changed the eligibility date). By October, my K teacher said, “He doesn’t belong here”. Took the Iowa Basic Skills Test (for 4th graders) in November- I tested as above-average… for a 4th grade student– 10 days after my 7th birthday.

        Mom got me started, but my sister was the one who actually taught me (I learned Math because I was sure she was cheating playing Monopoly). I paid that one back by being the 10yr old little brother in her 8th grade Algebra class…

    2. That’s where you actually do benefit from having a formal education in education. You don’t absolutely need it, but the younger the kids the better it is to have educators with degrees in early childhood education. The older the kinds the more specialized you need to be in a subject matter.

      1. You don’t absolutely need it, but the younger the kids the better it is to have educators with degrees in early childhood education.

        Absolute bullshit. Mom was a HS grad who sent three kids to Kindergarten already able to read and write above grade level- while working outside the home part-time.

  2. But how can we possibly have people teaching our special snowflakes who haven’t graduated social justice re-education camp!!!???

    1. This.

      Teaching universities are the monasteries of the Progressive Theocracy.

      1. And if teachers come from anywhere but these monasteries they might end up teaching crazy lies…….like white males have contributed more to history than slavery and genocide

      2. “Teaching universities are the monasteries of the Progressive Theocracy.”

        I never heard of a teaching university making beer.

    2. Georgia Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy

      Sounds like it fits the bill quite nicely.

  3. I had a teaching assistantship through most of electrical engineering graduate school. Ran problem sessions and labs for most of the undergraduate syllabus. Taught the graduate course in Neural Networks myself before I graduated.

    But I can’t teach math in public schools, though this fabulous plan in Georgia will let me if I submit to 3 years of progressive indoctrination.

    Fuck off, slavers.

    1. Thanks to the sergeants at NAS Memphis who taught me basic and advanced electronic repair, I was one of the best students in my EE classes at figuring out circuits. I also ended up being a go-to guy for the labs when things would break. I actually knew how to fix electronic stuff and was scared enough of electrocuting myself (something most EE’s are woefully ignorant on) that I was called in to fix lab equipment.

      A lot of the time I didn’t know the exact math that goes with fancy EE learning, but due to a bunch of high school grads teaching me in the Marines, I could figure out what was going on.

    2. But can you teach Common Core math? Didn’t think so.

  4. I remember in school taking AmHist 101 taught by the department head, a professor who had been teaching for 30 years or more, who pointed out that under the rules he was not qualified to teach a middle school history class. Hell, the guy had lived through more history than most of us know but he didn’t have that piece of paper that said he knew the latest bullshit methodology.

    I’m also reminded of why I dropped out of high school in the 10th grade – we had a geometry teacher who didn’t know math. She had gone to college to get her certification in teaching social studies but then found out schools don’t hire social studies teachers, they hire coaches and let them teach social studies and since she didn’t coach a sport she went back and got certified to teach math. The day I got called into the principal’s office and got lectured about making her cry because I kept correcting her in class was the day I figured I had gotten all the good out of high school I was ever going to get.

    We have the finest educational system in the world here in the US – as long as you don’t misunderstand its purpose. It’s not for educating kids, it’s for employing bureaucratic social engineers. What other industry makes an increasingly shoddy product at increasingly higher prices and yet manages to get its customers to actually campaign for even higher prices? That’s a serious mind-fuck right there.

    1. I had a fantastic science teacher in High School who said pretty much the same thing; despite being a seasoned educator with decades of experience (she had taught some of my classmates’ parents), she said she’d have to back to school for her Masters degree if she wanted to teach anywhere/anything else. And mind you, this was a public school in a podunk town in Ohio, and the woman taught me enough chemistry and physics to test out of the entry level classes when I went to college.

      The state of our educational system truly is a fucking mess.

      1. And then of course you have those teachers who have received a “doctoral” degree (I use air quotes here because many of these programs don’t even require students to complete original research) in some bullshit field like educational leadership. And inevitably, they’re the ones who insist on being addressed as “Doctor so-and-so.”

      2. Yeah, I believe a Masters is currently required in Ohio.

    2. Same for me (not that I want to teach high school): both in the state where I went to school (Kansas, at least at that time) and the state where I now work, I am not qualified to teach HS history.

    3. Not only that, but it’s mandated that everyone participate even if they’re purely disruptive and have no desire to learn.

      Sure, we might stick them in an off-campus ‘school’ where they learn how to do nothing and they still won’t care but hey, it’s for the children! Specifically, it’s a ‘fuck you’ to the kids that might actually want to learn.


      1. My father was a probation officer from the ’60s to the ’00s. He was an adult PO, but he worked in the same office as the juvenile PO’s and they all said the stupidest thing that ever came down the pipeline was the command that the fuckup kids should be forced to go to school no matter how much they hated it and disrupted classes.

        The two reasons were a) the schools wanted the money for having that kid in the seat and b) the corrections department was terrified of having some reporter write a big story about how the mean PO’s were dooming the kids to a life of despair by letting them drop out.

        Before that, a lot of times they’d tell the kid to drop out and get a job.

    4. GA public schools are a complete joke. Failure rates, math schools, and graduation rates are on par with the worst systems. The rural schools are the only thing keeping GA ratings high. Savannah is certainly a microcosm of the American public school system’s failures. This Mr. Lee is no doubt an extreme anomaly and congratulations to him.

      I can assure you that the bureaucrats in the system are quick to elevate these few success stories just to downplay their utter failures in most other categories.

    5. What other industry makes an increasingly shoddy product at increasingly higher prices and yet manages to get its customers to actually campaign for even higher prices?
      Journalism and politics?

  5. Bet Youtube university would out perform 75% of “qualified” public school teachers.

  6. If thirteen years of school training and education truly do turn out adult humans unfit for any work of any kind, then why do we keep paying these teachers anything?

    Anyone? Anyone? Buehler?

    1. Because the childrenz only know the basic principles of being an SJW after 13 years…..they have to spend the next 4 years sharping their sign waving, bottle throwing and slogan chanting.

    2. I blame my parent’s generation, who thought that the blue-collar work they did growing up was too dirty for their kids, and so demanded that all high schools produce college-ready students. Of course, they themselves are victims of society, which says that white collar workers are (literally) worth more then pipe layers and plumbers.

      That is to say… currently the dreams of parents are mis-aligned with the reality of life-after-High School. Until those two come back into alignment, schools are going to have similar issues.

  7. I don’t know what the policy is now but the US Navy taught enlisted personnel, many with little or no college to become instructors with a four week,, five day a week, 8 hour a day course. Subject matter was taught separately by instruction and or hand on training

    1. And those same credential-less enlisted slugs are frequently used to teach the credentialed Commissioned Officers…

      1. I did. My students ranged from E1 -E9 and O1 – O5

        1. Exactly my point. I have taught a good number of “all ranks” classes for deployers, and taught trainees all free of anything but expertise and a few weeks of training on administering a class and classroom management.

    2. I’ve been through this. They teach the physical and social mechanics of public speaking to a classroom, lesson plan development, how to write and evaluate tests, and how to document student progress. Nothing more is needed to turn a subject matter expert into an effective instructor.

  8. Well this isn’t going to make the unions very happy. I have several educator FB “friends” that will be very cross that people are horning in on their racket.

  9. I wish they did this program in someplace that isn’t Georgia. I’d love to go back to teaching (I taught math, physics, and chemistry at a couple of colleges back in the day), but no way I’d do it if I had to get an Ed degree. Or have to live in Georgia.

    1. Texas?

      Starting teacher pay in the Houston area is $50k now. And they have a shortage of secondary math and science teachers.

  10. An Education Degree is an oxymoron.

    I’ve known, and unfortunately dated, a few education majors are they were without exception women who wanted to get married and barely work; who wanted to start a family while earning money on the side.

    I’m not saying everyone fits into my tiny sample size of perhaps a few dozen but the fact of the matter is at least half of those were spending around 30,000 in loans, at least, to get a job that can start you off at ~20,000 a year. (Something you can easily do without a degree at all, obviously.)

    It’s absurd to require a college degree for someone that’s going to be teaching 3rd graders in my opinion. It just feeds the beast, which I suppose is ultimately the point.

    That being said, you also shouldn’t have a football Coach teaching History or Economics with their Kinesiology degree in High School. (Something that happened to me, and was frankly useless as preparation for college History & Economics classes.)

    1. Had a friend of mine (since passed away) who adjuncted at the college where I now teach but spent his entire career as a school teacher in the same city. He once told me that if every College of Education in the country were shut down, it would improve education overnight.

      One of the biggest problems is that Ed Colleges often teach almost all methods and very little content. In the state where I work, you can qualify to teach high school history with 6 hours of history classes as long as you have an Ed degree.

      1. Indeed, it’s a racket. The very fact you can major in Elementary School Education is disgusting. You won’t pay that loan back on your own for decades (if ever), and almost all of the people I’ve ever met who graduated with that degree pay it back with their spouses income. Mostly because that was their plan going into it.

        It’s my opinion that if you didn’t mandate attendance the people who remained might actually accomplish something. Teaching to the lowest common denominator, or here in Texas to people who don’t even speak English, is a waste of everyone’s time.

        Note that when I say some students don’t speak English, but are still forced to attend classes taught in English, this is something I actually saw when in school. It was absurd. ESL was a thing in my high school, yet there were no teachers who spoke enough Spanish to teach them anything other than, maybe, English itself. Also, somewhat ironically, my two years of Spanish didn’t teach me diddly since my entire first year was taught by a ‘substitute’ teacher since the actual teacher managed to take a year of paid sick time before their retirement. Hooray.

        1. Me pollo senorita Peggy Hill. Soy el substitute teacher del ano por mucho mucho anos.

  11. Put me in charge of the Education department. “Students, welcome to our program. See how we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every generation? Slightly square one, oblong one, triangular one. They just don’t work. Understand that you can teach socialism, communism or whatever hybrid you can come up with, but remember that it is capitalism and liberty that have won the debate. Now, you all have a nice day.”

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  13. I don’t understand this teacher shortage thing. Too lazy to look them up now, but I’ve seen stats for my state (Illinois) showing that the public universities and colleges are graduating new teachers at a rate of between 2X (special education, math) and 18X (social studies) the number of positions that open up in any given year. Maybe Illinois exports a lot of new teachers?

  14. I would prefer certifications to degrees. If you want to teach math, pass a test showing you understand the subject well enough for the age group your looking to teach, same with history, science, etc. You could probably have a general certification for elementry but you would still need a passing score in each major category (i.e. math, science, etc). I remember having to help my 4th grade degreed teacher with our math book. That should not be acceptable.

    1. If I understand the FL laws correctly, you have to have at least a minor in a subject to teach HS. So we had an “Analytical Methods of Chem” class at FSU that was 50% chemical engineers who had just finished their junior and 50% education majors. Mostly because the chem electives sucked if you weren’t on the bio-med track. As you might imagine, the grade distribution was not normalized. By that point, the ChemEs could (and had) calculated simple statistics (averages, standard deviations) and pH in their sleep. Not sure how other states do it.

    2. As long as we’re spitting out personal preferences, I’d argue that you should have to be accomplished in the level above what you’re teaching, even if you can’t effectively teach it.

      Why? Because while you might be able to teach that 2 + 2 = 4, if someone comes up to and says “but according to X, sometimes 2 + 2 = 5?” you need to be able to give some explanation, even if it’s not on the lesson plan.

      Another example, say you’re teaching basic programming using C++?. You might know exactly what’s needed for your coursework, but if the kids come to you with something outside the scope of that (null pointers, templates, multiple inheritance) then you probably should know enough beyond the scope of the class that you can answer questions, even if you aren’t planning on teaching black magic null pointers.

      Failure to have the higher knowledge then what you’re teaching can easily lead to either (A) squashing kid’s thirst for knowledge or (B) giving them the wrong information.
      ?Rounding error. 2.4 + 2.4 = 4.8, which if you round all the values (might be done in a variety of contexts) will result in 2 + 2 = 5. More realistic examples would probably involve fractions with a couple of more decimal points before the rounding/display error, but you get the idea.
      ?Admittedly, I suspect introduction to programming uses Java these days, but I’m more familiar with the nuances of C++, so there.

      1. Sure and that could be baked into a certification.

    3. As I understand it, that’s how we used to do it.

      Potential teachers would sit an examination. A certification was issued to teach those subjects you passed. Your scores were on your certificate, which had to be renewed frequently (the definition of “frequently” varied). A good recommendation from the board of directors which employed you was sometimes necessary for renewal, and a bad recommendation could prevent you from getting re-certified.

      Of course, this was ages ago. We’ve learned better since then.

  15. Good. Because despite what people tell you, teaching isn’t all that hard. It might be stressful at times and hard work at others, but it’s not actually a difficult job to do. I don’t think you need a degree in it to teach. You might not know all the latest in pedagogical theory, but you don’t need any of that to effectively teach a class on any subject. What’s more difficult is finding someone that’s a mathematician to teach math, or a chemist to teach chemistry, or a historian to teach history. You don’t need to know the latest methods of instruction. You need to know your subject like the back of your hand and be willing to teach it. All the stupid teaching “methods” and “theories” can actually get in the way and students don’t learn the actual subject because they’re spending all their time maintaining the stupid “portfolio” of pointless assignments and busywork.

  16. I taught high school English in schools across the country (following a Navy husband) and I don’t really remember any of my colleagues who majored in education. The most common path was a degree in English with perhaps a minor in education, to get the courses you needed to get your certification. Or a Masters in Teaching (an M.A.T.) after an undergraduate degree in a subject area. When I was on hiring committees, we avoided any prospect who had simply majored in Education.

    One the one hand, there is some valuable information, and experiences, that ed. courses should provide new teachers. On the other hand, I found many of the courses I took to be less than helpful.

    But what I’m not hearing in these comments, or the article, is the reality that teaching is hard work, and that simply knowing a subject matter does not guarantee you will be able to teach it, especially, I imagine, in elementary school. I found that excellent teachers were usually very bright and enthusiastic, and truly cared about their students. With the low pay and esteem teachers deal with these days, I imagine it is going to be harder and harder to hire and keep excellent teachers.

  17. This is a disappointing news because we have no future if our teachers quit the school for this reason. Teachers have to take responsibilities to take care of the students. But, I have seen today that many of our teachers are working to get their pay, not to guide the students. For example for this, a number of teachers are joining the one of the best essay writing service providers online in order to get additional pay from writing companies besides their usual pay. How our students will get better if the teachers do not show sincerity towards their responsibilities? This is absolutely a disappointing matter.

  18. To be an effective teacher, among your qualities must be creativity and a sensitivity to children’s needs. You must also have superior organizational, listening, and verbal communication skills.

    best essay writing service uk

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