The American Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO (shocker), has proposed an entry 'bar' exam for teachers. Despite what the AFT says, this exam will not improve teacher quality.
Many public choice economists associate certifications, licenses, and other attempts at excluding people from various professions with rent seeking. Often the people who are already in the profession, and thus voting on the new licensing standards, are grandfathered out of the new requirements. This implies that the requirements are more about limiting their future competition than increasing their expertise. In many cases it also leads to the profession charging a premium for their services since they are now "licensed" or "certified", despite the fact that as a group they are no more knowledgeable than they were before and no more qualified than the uncertified practitioners.
Certifications rarely lead to improvements in product quality despite the new higher prices. Has the bar exam eliminated bad lawyers? Has the AMA eliminated bad doctors? Does the fact that your plumber or electrician is certified make them good? What about your hairdresser or manicurist? I am sure that everyone reading this has had nothing but wonderful experiences with all of the occupations I just named. And lets not forget that teachers are already certified by their respective states.
When it comes to certifications/licenses I am reminded of a scene in the movie Tommy Boy. In the movie Tommy Callahan, played by Chris Farley, is attempting to sell brake pads to an automotive supply store owner, Ted Nelson: Video Here
Tommy: ...Let's think about this for a sec, Ted, why would somebody put a guarantee on a box? Hmmm, very interesting.
Ted Nelson: Go on, I'm listening.
Tommy: Here's the way I see it, Ted. Guy puts a fancy guarantee on a box 'cause he wants you to fell all warm and toasty inside.
Ted Nelson: Yeah, makes a man feel good.
Tommy: 'Course it does. Why shouldn't it? Ya figure you put
that little box under your pillow at night, the Guarantee Fairy might
come by and leave a quarter, am I right, Ted?
Ted Nelson: What's your point?
Tommy: The point is, how do you know the fairy isn't a crazy
glue sniffer? "Buildin' model airplanes!" says the little fairy, well,
we're not buying it. He sneaks into your house once, that's all it
takes. The next thing you know, there's money missing off your dresser
and your daughter's knocked up, I've seen it a hundred times.
Ted Nelson: But why do they put a guarantee on the box?
Tommy: Because they know all they sold ya was a guaranteed
piece of shit. That's all it is, isn't it? Hey, if you want me to take a
dump in a box and mark it guaranteed, I will. I've got spare time.
I view certifications/licenses the same way Tommy views guarantees. Professions put a certification on themselves to make consumers feel all warm and toasty inside, but they know that all they did was certify a piece of shit.
Free markets and competition are the only mechanisms that can eliminate poor performers. Licenses and 'bar' exams will not do the trick. Competition gets rid of bad lawyers, bad doctors, bad plumbers etc. But teachers want to shield themselves from this competition. They would rather hide behind exams and training requirements and act like they are doing something.
This is too bad, especially for the youth of America. Increased competition is the only hope for improving K - 12 education in this country.