Education professionals are split on a controversial teacher licensing proposal approved by the State Board of Education on Wednesday.
According to the Indianapolis Star, the proposal would allow individuals with 6,000 hours work experience and a bachelor’s degree in any field to teach middle school and high school in that field after passing a content test.
Because the career specialist certificate, revised from the earlier “adjunct teaching permit,” does not require prior teacher training, critics say permit holders won’t be prepared for a classroom.
Board member David Freitas, who represents the Second Congressional District, said he supported the career specialist proposal because he believes it will give local schools greater flexibility to hire qualified teachers.
“It creates an additional pathway to teaching for talented and qualified individuals,” he said. “It empowers local schools to decide who to hire. ... I did not feel the state should be eliminating potential teachers.”
Freitas, who describes himself as an advocate of local control of education, said the career specialist certificate would place hiring authority squarely on local schools.
Marvin Lynn, dean of the Indiana University South Bend School of Education, said he thinks schools already have a great deal of autonomy.
“Local school districts decide what kind of incentives they use to promote professional development,” he said. “They don’t have to hire anyone they don’t think is qualified to do the job.”
According to the Star, the proposal is part of a larger licensing package the board will vote on this year.
Cheryl Waggoner, Elkhart Community Schools director of talent recruitment and management, said she would like to see provisions in the final legislation to allow schools to hire career specialist license holders on a temporary contract.
ECS spokesperson Shawn Hannon explained state law requires schools to hire most teachers for at least one full year.
“There are state laws that govern the status of a teacher and there are only certain conditions that allow us to hire someone on a temporary basis,” she said. “That’s a long commitment for someone who hasn’t been in a classroom before.”
Indiana does already have a program in place that allows career professionals with bachelor’s degrees to earn a teaching license.The program, called Transition to Teaching, is meant for individuals already knowledgeable in a content area they want to be licensed to teach.
Unlike the proposed career specialist certificate, Transition to Teaching requires 18 to 24 credit hours of teaching preparation courses before candidates can take a content test and apply for a teaching license. As the board of education’s proposal stands, the career specialist certificate would not require applicants to take teacher training before applying for a teaching job.
Waggoner said ECS has hired teachers from Transition to Teaching for both elementary and secondary school.
Lynn praised the program, saying it works well despite strict GPA requirements that he thinks limit potential applicants.
“If people from outside the field of education are going to be allowed to get a teaching license, then they should be required to take the necessary coursework in order to do that,” he said.
The Indiana BOE’s proposal is part of a national movement toward deregulating the teaching profession, Lynn said.
“I think it’s based on what I would call a faulty assumption that schools generally are not doing well and that the teachers who are teaching them are the primary reasons for this,” he said. “I think there’s a perception in our society that that’s the case, that schools simply are failing and that teachers who are primarily prepared in traditional ways are not prepared to teach these students well.”
The state revised its original adjunct teacher proposal during Wednesday’s meeting to include a provision that career specialist permit holders would have to begin teacher training when they start teaching, if not before.
Freitas suggested a permit holder knowledgeable in their field could begin to teach with strong mentoring from other teachers in their school district. Permit holders would be evaluated by local schools for their teaching skills as well as their knowledge, he said.
“If someone needs help with their pedagogy and other teaching skills, (school districts) could make that a requirement of their teaching in those local schools,” he said. “I don’t think it’s lessening in any way the quality of teaching that will be taking place in our schools.”
ECS already has a mentoring program for teachers, Waggoner said. She said ECS would consider hiring a career specialist permit holder to teach, but the permit holder would go through ECS’ regular screening process like any other teaching candidate.
“This might give us a little more flexibility in those hard-to-find areas,” Waggoner said. “At this time we aren’t having a hard time finding excellent candidates.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.