Saturday, February 23, 2013

CDEA part 2 - the Dance Credential issue

During the morning roundtable session at the Northern California CDEA mini-conference, the ever-present issue of the teaching credential in Dance — or, more precisely, the lack of one — featured prominently in the discussion. For anyone reading this from outside of this state, my understanding (though some of this goes back to before my time as a teacher) is that California used to have a single subject credential in Dance (as well as Drama), but it somehow went by the wayside in a restructuring of credentials that happened in the early 1970s. So currently the applicable credential for teaching dance in this state is in PE (the state apparently assumes that if you're qualified to teach PE, you must be qualified to teach dance — sigh…). There are other ways to go about it — a multiple subjects credential with a subject matter authorization in Dance, for instance — but the PE credential is pretty much the standard.

One problem with this., of course, is that once you have to get a PE credential, they can make you teach PE — which is what I ended up doing for my first few years in public schools, and what I don't want to have to do again… Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against physical education, I believe it is vitally important in its own right — it's just that I personally know pretty close to diddly-squat about teaching any sports (with the sole exception of synchronized swimming, which I'm afraid really isn't called for too often in PE programs), and I do not like teaching subjects I know nothing about!

So there has been a push for many years to get the dance credential restored (as well as the drama credential — drama teachers are in much the same boat as we are, they have to get credentials in English). The discussion at the conference was somewhat hopeful, as there is some movement among the state education department and various arts organizations to bring the issue forward… perhaps there is a possibility of the dance credential being restored within my teaching lifetime...

However, one interesting angle to the PE-for-dance credential problem that I had never even thought of popped up in the course of the discussion: One dance teacher, who had recently been hired to replace a retiring teacher, mentioned that another problem with the PE credential requirement is that lots of PE teachers end up applying for dance positions — she said the previous teacher told her that out of a huge pool of applicants, the vast majority were "PE people" which they had to weed out to get to the relatively tiny pool of dance people… Well, I sat up and took notice at that — because this happened to be a position I had also applied for, but had never been called for an interview. I had presumed at the time that they had been looking for some very specific experience — performing with a major company, a particular technical emphasis, whatever — but on discovering during our lunchtime conversation that there was nothing like that and the only thing that truly separated us was her out-of-state dance credential, I began to suspect another possibility: that I was one of those "PE people" weeded out of the applicant pool! Could it be that someone in HR doing the initial screening actually didn't know that that the PE credential is standard for "dance people" getting credentialed in this state (because there is no dance credential!!!), and simply rejected out of hand all those applicants credentialed in PE without even looking at the resumes? I wonder… does this happen often???

There is one way to put dance on a credential, it is called a "Specific Subject Matter Authorization" (SMA). BUT here's the Catch-22: because the reason for an SMA is to "allow an individual to teach a class in a subject outside the area in which he or she earned a credential"; and because the Commission on Teacher Credentialing considers dance to be "subsumed under" the umbrella of PE, you can't add an SMA in Dance to a PE credential! So, even though all of my coursework was in dance, there appears to be no way to show that on my credential (sigh again). Just another way the arts (especially dance) are disrespected and disregarded in education...

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