Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Staffing Practices/Credentialism

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Credentialism—how has this impacted education?
It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.

—Albert Einstein

What is credentialism? According to a dictionary, credentialism is “excessive reliance on credentials, esp. academic degrees, in determining hiring or promotion policies. American Heritage Dictionary states that credentialism is “overemphasis on diplomas or degrees in giving jobs or conferring social status”. Because of NCLB requirement, the administrators of school systems have to follow the guideline and rely on applicant’s credentials when they hire him or her as a teacher. Teachers who do not meet this requirement have to work on this requirement. Did this impact the education? If it is so, how did this impact the education?


To reform the school system and improve students performance in the nationwide, the federal government enacted the No Child Left Behiend Act of 2001(NCLB). This includes accountability for students performance, teacher quality, and information for parents.

Under the law, states have to ensure that all children are taught by effective teachers. The No Child Left Behind act of 2001 (NCLB) requires that (by the end of the 2006-7 school year) all teachers must be "highly qualified" as defined in the law. A highly qualified teacher is one who has (1) fulfilled the state's certification and licensing requirements, (2) obtained at least a bachelor’s degree, and (3) demonstrated subject matter expertise. The procedure for demonstrating subject matter knowledge depends on a teacher's tenure and level of instruction (Desimone, Laura M.; Smith, Thomas M.; Ueno, Koji, 2005).

This means that teachers who do not have enough credentials or degrees cannot have teaching jobs. Teachers who have not fulfilled the licensing requirements have to take classes for licensure and attend workshops. Teachers who have completed the requirements for this process express the differences. In the article of Michael N. Riley, teachers express these comments below.

  • A focus on making learning objectives much clearer and more specific.
  • A commitment to the learning of all kids and an accompanying and complementary willingness to measure effectiveness of instruction and the instructor by the success of each and every student.
  • A deeper understanding and more frequent use for formative assessment.
  • A practice of modifying instruction any time, even in the heart of a lesson, driven by the understanding and

performance of the students. (Riley, 2007)

Teachers who have content knowledge in the subject but do not know what to do in the classroom can learn so many strategies of how to deliver the lesson, assess student’s work and modify instructional strategies in the program of licensure. Teachers who meet requirements as being “highly qualified “ are more likely to use effective instruction than those who do not meet these requirements.

No Child Left Behind includes funds for the teacher and principal quality training and recruitment. The money is designed to help states and school districts improve teacher and principal quality and recruit quality staff. To make sure that more teachers get qualified, the Department of Education allocated $2.85 billion in 2002 and $2.93 billion in 2003 through Improving Teacher Quality state grants to help teachers become highly qualified if they are not already (Desimone, Smith, Ueno, 2005). According to Safier, teacher certification increase and greater increases in instructional expenditures are correlated with the increase of highly qualified teachers (Safier, 2007).


Administrators of school systems are dealing with how to meet the staffing needs of schools with qualified teachers. Patricia C. Pratt-Cook, the human – resources director, in Memphis, Tenn., said she has sometimes had to rehire teachers who had not attained highly qualified status because she found no better candidates for their jobs (Keller, 2007).

Since the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires the highly qualified teachers for all students, this created the shortage of teachers in certain areas, such as special education, foreign languages, math and sciences. According to the article “Reducing the Special Education Teacher Shortage,” colleges and universities produce only half the number required to fill vacant positions (Medina, Peltier, Thornton, 2007). Because of insufficient candidates, highly qualified special education teachers are not available for all classrooms.

In addition, NCLB requires that all children, including those with disabilities, are at proficient levels as measured by state academic assessments by the 2013-14 school year. This pressures many educators, and more special education teachers will request to transfer to regular education positions or leave the profession (Medina, Peltier, Thornton, 2007).

The problem of relying so much on credentialism is if the society emphasizes only credentials and degrees to hire somebody there is a chance to miss the certain value of characteristics for jobs such as experiences, devotion, and adaptability.

Many state-financed preschool programs require teachers to have four year degrees. Yet some researchers are skeptical about the link between teacher credentials in preschool and outcomes for children ( Jacobson, 2007). Some community colleges have good early childhood programs to become effective teachers for preschools. If some females who raised their children want to be preschool teachers but have to obtain four year degrees, this credentialism makes it hard for those people to teach preschools.


Credentialism really impacted the education in good and bad ways. The requirement of certain credentials for teaching ensure the teacher’s quality. Teachers who are highly qualified know about what effective ways to teach the subjects, which affects student’s achievement. In contrast, there are teacher shortages in some areas. Without sufficient amount of teachers, students cannot receive quality education. Policy makers and advocates have to consider what should be done to solve these problems.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

What is credentialism?
A. A certification indicating that a students has completed a course.
B. Considered suitable to receive commercial credit.
C. Excessive reliance on credentials in determining hiring or promotion policies.

C. Excessive reliance on credentials in determining hiring or promotion policies.

Which subject has shortage of teachers?
A. Special education
B. English
C. History

A. Special education

Being a highly qualified teacher means?
A. Have a bachelor’s degree.
B. Be fully certified or licensed.
C. Have demonstrated content knowledge in the subject.
D. All of the above.

D. All of the above.

What is not a disadvantage of credentialism?
A. Causes shortage of teachers.
B. Missing certain value characteristics for jobs.
C. Saves money to buy books.
D. Administrators of school system have a hard time managing staffing needs.

C. Saves money to buy books.

Which is not the purpose of NCLB?
A. Funds for teachers.
B. Funds for quality training.
C. Students taught in large classes.
D. Accountability for student performance.

C. Students taught in large classes.

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal sample responses.

In your opinion, is credentialism the best way to find qualified teachers?

I want all children to be educated by qualified personnel, but sometimes it is hard to find the correct person for the job. There are some people that have the experience, passion and adaptability for classroom purposes. Unfortunately, not all of these have a degree or set foot in a school. On the other hand, the people that have the degrees and some experience don’t always have the right technique and devotion to teach. Knowledge itself doesn’t make you an expert to teach students. The proper teaching technique and ways to keep the kids thinking is what is needed in the classes. It is also vice versa. Teachers who have enough knowledge and teaching technique and have established classroom success do not always have certifications. Teachers quit and take jobs at private school or other places because of the pressures associated with the credentialism. Finding teachers by the degree gets the fresh minds for schools and students, but there are some problems that policy makers need to deal with.

In both my opinion and my experience, the resounding answer is NO! I began my teaching career as a substitute just before the advent of NCLB. I specifically chose to return to my former high school because I wanted to give back to my community: a high poverty, rural area. “Having a knack” for teaching caused me to become the most requested and sought after sub at the school. When I asked to be considered for a permanent teaching position, I was refused, because my BA was in Sociology, and the school was forced to hire anyone with an Education degree over me, so I left for the sports & recreation industry. After over 10 years in this industry, I qualified as a career switcher. I am now an Elementary/Middle school Health & PE teacher at my former Elementary school. My particular career training has been instrumental and easily adaptable to teaching. I also know a fully licensed , bi-lingual pre-school lead teacher from Florida, but her Florida credentials don’t transfer to Virginia. Even though she is often placed in the lead teacher role, she is only recognized and paid as an assistant.

Often, the most highly credentialed person is the best person for the job, but not always. In any other field, credentials may get you noticed and/or in the door, but performance keeps you there. Sometimes a person with no credentials can excel in that field because of natural ability. I feel the teaching profession should continue to actively recruit/pursue people outside the education field to become teachers. I’ll take field expertise over classroom expertise any day. Until the teaching industry becomes like the “real world” and hires the best person for the job, regardless of a piece of paper, and pays for the best, it will lag behind. —Mike Hancock


  • Desimone, Laura M; Smith, Thomas M; Ueno, Koji. “Highly Qualified “ to Do What? The relationship Between NCLB Teacher Quality Mandates and the Use of Reform-Oriented Instruction in Middle School Mathematics. Educational Evaluation &Policy Analysis 27 no1 75-109 Spr 2005. (WilsonWeb)
  • Jacobson, Linda. Scholars Split on Pre-K teachers with B.A.s Education Week 26 no29 1,m13 March 28, 2007. (WilsonWeb)
  • Keller, Bess. NCLB Rules On ‘Quality’ Fall Short. Education Week 26 no37 1, May 16, 2007. (WilsonWeb)
  • Medina, Ricky; Peltier, Gary; Thornton, Bill. Reducing the Special Education Teacher Shortage. The Clearing House 80 no5 233-8 May/Jun 2007. (WilsonWeb)
  • Riley, Michale N. Why We Invest in Board-Certified Teachers. School Administrator 64 no7 49 Ag 2007. (WilsonWeb)
  • Safier, Kristen L. Improving Teacher Quality in Ohio: The Limitations of the highly Qualified Teacer Provision of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Journal of Law & Education 36 no1 65-87 Ja 2007. (Wilson Web)