A series of news articles recently published by USA Today related instances of educators across the country who, in spite of having adverse action taken against their certificates or licenses, were able to make their way back into classrooms. In addition to the print media, the reports were carried across radio, television, and the internet. Through Freedom of Information Act requests to several states the reporter was able to secure NASDTEC clearinghouse data and compare it with records of misconduct case files from all states. According to the report, about 9,000 cases were found in state case files that had not been entered into the Clearinghouse. While most of these 9,000 cases were minor offenses that some jurisdictions chose not to enter into the Clearinghouse, the report indicated that 1,400 were permanent revocations and 200 of those were cases were related to sex or violence.
I was asked by USA Today to write an opinion piece; an offer they later withdrew. I want to share what I wrote with you.
The first responsibility of government is the safety of its citizens. Similarly, the first responsibility of a professional educator is the safety of students.
Nearly 25 years ago, states recognized a gap in student safety; there was no way to know if out-of-state applicants for teaching credentials had adverse action taken against those credentials as a result of misconduct in another state. To collect this important information, states came together to design, implement and manage the NASDTEC Clearinghouse.
The recent investigative report by USA Today revealed that over the 25-year history of the Clearinghouse, approximately 1,400 cases of permanently revoked certificates (the most egregious cases) were not entered into the Clearinghouse. While these cases reflect approximately 4% of all permanent revocations entered into the Clearinghouse over the past 25 years, the reality that even one case failed to be submitted puts students at risk and is therefore unacceptable. We can do better.
In response to important issues raised in the report, NASDTEC and state education agencies across the country are taking immediate steps to improve procedures related to the submission of records to the Clearinghouse. Also, NASDTEC will require all states to perform annual reviews of the cases submitted to the Clearinghouse. Furthermore, to support the growing responsibilities of local school districts, NASDTEC plans to make the Clearinghouse available to districts, providing an important resource for background checks for all district employees.
Finally, NASDTEC realizes that the long-term solution to educator misconduct requires a commitment to prevention--not just prosecution. Research indicates educators make thousands of decisions each day, and too many educators find themselves on the slippery slope of misconduct as a result of being unprepared for the many ethical dilemmas they face daily. The recent development of the NASDTEC Model Code of Ethics for Educators (MCEE) provides a common language to guide and support the ethical behavior of educators. We invite readers to visit our website at www.nasdtec.net to review the MCEE and join NASDTEC and all of the 3.1 million outstanding educators in America who make school a safe place.
Each of us, in one way or another, bears the ultimate responsibility of making sure every child in every classroom is safe. We can complain of the broad brush used during this investigation, making it appear that careless mistakes and ineffective procedures are acceptable practice; or we can assume our responsibilities and look for the truth in the report and take immediate steps to correct what is in our power and resources to correct…I choose the latter and ask you to join me in making all of America’s classrooms safer.
Phillip Rogers, Ed.D.