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GPA requirement for teachers laudable, but in need of amendment

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | DECEMBER 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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The mandatory grade-point average required for prospective teachers to enter Iowa's 32 preparation schools should disregard the applicant's worst semester. A one-semester exception will help to correct the disproportionate effect Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's requirement would have on disadvantaged students who will ultimately contribute to a much stronger teaching force in the state of Iowa.

If any child aspires to something great, an abundance of qualified teachers is more than likely required. Because of this, teaching is one of the most vital occupations that our society offers.

There are many ways to measure if a candidate for a teaching position is qualified or not. However, Branstad's new education plan, which requires prospective teachers to have a cumulative GPA of 3.00 or higher before entering Iowa's teaching-preparation schools, will keep many great future teachers from practicing in the state. The extremeness of this requirement can also be highlighted by the fact that, if this law passes, Iowa will have the strictest hiring requirements for teachers at universities in the United States.

First of all, studies have confirmed GPA's minimal effect on the eventual competency of a teacher. One study, "Predicting Teacher Performance With Test Scores and Grade Point Average: A Meta-Analysis" and cowritten by Sonya Powers of the University of Iowa, found that GPA from test scores was "at best modestly related to teacher competency." An earlier study, titled "College GPA as a Predictor of Teacher Competency," found that GPA was a statistically insignificant predictor of teacher success after all students with GPAs below 2.30 were excluded from the study.

This is not to say that GPA should be disregarded when evaluating potential teachers. To a slight degree, GPA is tied to future-teacher performance. Also, given that teacher's base-salaries have been raised under the same education plan advanced by Branstad, the occupational field will undoubtedly be more competitive. This being the case, those who wish to lead Iowa's youth should concentrate on their careers earlier and more effectively.

Still, some students are more susceptible to GPA-crippling semesters than others — particularly those with less financial and social support.

Many people, even in graduate school, have one bad semester that, for whatever reason, brings down their GPA and misrepresents their talent, intellect, or drive. For those who are financing their own education, taking care of a family, or have little social support to stay in school, any unfortunate incident has far-reaching effects. For many of these students, finances come before a 3.0 GPA, and for nearly all of these students, family comes before a 3.0 GPA.

If graduates of professional teaching schools are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout their entire graduate-school career, it is possible that some highly intelligent and qualified applicants can be turned away because of a rough semester they had in school.

If this is passed, it is estimated one in five people who graduate from professional teaching schools will not be able to acquire jobs in Iowa's state universities. While it is honorable and necessary to make sure that Iowa's teachers are the best and the most well-suited, this requirement will adversely affect Iowa's educational system.

If the goal of education is to make anything possible for any student, then it seems that we should focus, first and foremost, on disadvantaged children. With whom do disadvantaged children most relate? Former disadvantaged children, most likely. People with troubled backgrounds will be more likely to pull from her or his past experiences to help the children most in need of guidance — in fact, a positive teacher-student relationship is widely considered one of the most effective means of teaching, according to ASCD (formerly called the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development).

If Branstad's plan passes, it seems that many of the most promising teaching prospects will be eliminated from the candidate pool.

Those that have experienced hardships will make the most effective teachers. Those that have experienced hardships are more likely to stumble in college and earn a misrepresentative grade point average.

Let's provide some room for comfort to those admirable students who aspire to lead our future leaders.


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