The State Board of Education will vote Wednesday on new rules governing how Indiana educators earn licenses and certifications. The potentially contentious changes come at the end of a lame duck session for the state board.
The guidelines mandated by the Indiana State Board of Education determine what criteria educators must meet in order to obtain their teacher’s license in the state. The Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability or REPA, were first implemented by state Board of Education in 2010. Since then, a new iteration known as REPA II has been publicly debated. REPA II will allow anyone who has earned a four-year college degree with at least a 3.0 GPA to earn a teaching credential after passing an exam.
But IU School of Education Dean Gerardo Gonzales says the measures in REPA II will lead to the de-professionalization of educators in the state.
“The changes that are now proposed are simply not needed,” he says. “There may be some tweaking that is needed, but what has been proposed are major wholesale changes that would lower standards and that’s really the primary concerns that we have.”
Among the changes to REPA II is a provision that will allow educators to certify their ability to teach subjects by testing through what are known as Content Area Exams. Initially, special education advocates worried about what that meant for special needs children, but Kim Dodson, Vice President of ARC Indiana, an nationwide advocacy organization for students with disabilities, says her organization is satisfied with changes made to the rules.
“The areas around special education: the learning disabilities, the visually impaired, and the deaf and hard of hearing, have been addressed and the DOE has recognized that maybe there are some teaching foundations that need to be met, rather than the simple taking of a test,” Dodson says.
Some opponents of the new rules see them as a chance to pass State Superintendent Tony Bennett’s education agenda before Superintendent- elect Glenda Ritz takes over the position in January.
Indiana State Teachers Association Vice President Teresa Meredith says the lame-duck Board of Education should respect the wishes of the voters who elected Ritz and table the discussion until January.
“I just think this board owes it to Ms. Ritz to be respectful of the process and not try and railroad or push this agenda through,” she says. “The public has spoken, they owe it to the 1.3 million people who voted for her to wait and let the Ritz administration look at REPA II and determine what needs to go forward and what needs to be taken off the table.”
The Indiana State Board of Education moved the public comment section on REPA II, originally meant to take place before the Board votes on finalizing it, until after it votes on approving them.