By Ashleigh Costello

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Federation of Teachers is proposing a new national exam for teachers as a way to elevate the profession.

The exam would reportedly serve the same function as the bar exam for lawyers or board certification for doctors, reports

The unions usually fight efforts to improve standards or increase accountability for teachers, so this can be taken as a positive sign.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten first floated the idea at the Aspen Ideas Festival this summer. However, the proposal was made official in the AFT’s new report, “Raising the Bar,” released Monday morning.

Under the AFT plan, prospective teachers would have to demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of their subject areas and spend a year as a student teacher before passing a rigorous national exam.

Universities would also be forced to make their teacher preparation programs more selective, requiring a minimum of a 3.0 grade point average to enroll and to graduate, among other things.

“We must do away with a common rite of passage, whereby newly minted teachers are tossed the keys to their classrooms, expected to figure things out, and left to see if they (and their students) sink or swim,” writes Weingarten.

“There has been significant debate about the quality of teacher preparation programs—both traditional and alternative. By requiring all teacher candidates to pass a universal assessment, we ensure all teachers who enter the classroom, whether trained in a traditional program or alternatively certified, meet the same standards of competence.”

A professional exam would certainly be a big step toward increasing the quality of educators who will lead the next generation. This is a welcome suggestion from the AFT.