Why Certification?

by Jean Tower

Why do states require educators to be certified? Certification requirements include education in certain specific coursework for each certification area; practicum experience under her supervisor who holds that certification; and in Massachusetts, passing scores on state educator exams. So certification purports to be stamped with expertise – a license to educate. Not totally unlike earning your driver’s license, which also requires you to pass a written exam, and, after hours of driving practice, a driving test. So states have certification to ensure that all educators meet professional criteria and can be considered qualified to teach.

Massachusetts requires certification for superintendents, assistant superintendent, principals, special education administrators, and a wide variety of specialists. Each of these licensures requires mastery of a body of knowledge pertinent to the role, as well as experience in the role, directly or in an apprentice-like experience.

As a district-level technology administrator, I find the absence of a certification or licensure for this role to be a glaring oversight. Like other education professionals, district technology administrators (CIOs, CTOs, Technology Directors) need to master a body of knowledge, understand the educational environment, and have work experience or a practicum experience in educational setting. The body of knowledge has been knowledgeably defined by CoSN in their Framework of Essential Skills for K-12 CTO. CoSN has developed a certification process and exam based on this framework. The first group of CTOs aspiring to certification will sit the exam in the very near future. I am confident the certification program will be successful and CTOs all over the country will want to earn this certification – to show that they too, have the expertise, knowledge, education, and experience that signify that they are a recognized and certified professional. CoSN says that the value of the certification is that it will:

  • Validate your knowledge of the education technology field and the evolving role of the CTO
  • Distinguish you from your peers
  • Demonstrate dedication to advancing your career
  • Inspire confidence in your superiors

I agree – all good points. In addition, mastering the entire body of knowledge and taking the time and effort to reflect on that knowledge and sit for the exam, will actually make you better, not just appear better.
But, even beyond the CoSN certification, I believe that state education departments should create Technology Administrator certifications. The role has become a key one in school districts and the body of knowledge required to be truly effective is both broad and deep. School districts would be well served by hiring certified professionals for this role. Districts who do not understand the complexities of filling this role sometimes hire “techies” who understand the wires and boxes but who are not adept at creating a shared vision, applying technologies to core learning goals, leading conversations with many stakeholders, and therefore do not reap the full reward of technology initiatives.

One route towards state certification should be CoSN certification plus experience in the role in that state plus the passing of any general educator exams that may be required by that state. Why certification for CIO/CTO/Technology Director? For all the same reasons we have them for other roles in public education – to ensure a level of knowledge, experience, and the expertise necessary to carry out the duties of the role. Further, I suggest that technology administrators join me in supporting certification (licensure) in their home state – we want to raise the visibility, acknowledge the wide range of skills the position requires, professionalize the role, and join other educational administrators who have professional and recognized standards.

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