Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Why Everyone's Fighting About Who's Qualified To Teach In Indiana

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A Bloomington elementary teacher reads to her students.

Teacher licensure isn’t just another education issue for Noblesville parent Jeff Huffman.

His son Nash, 11, has Down syndrome. Jeff has made sure, though, that Nash spends most of his school day in a general education classroom. For each staff member involved in Nash’s education — every teacher, every paraprofessional, every aide — Huffman says he asks the school what teaching license they carry. For him, it’s part of being involved as a parent.

But changes to Indiana’s teacher licensure rules are in the works, and the already-complex process has become particularly contentious.

The debate has pitted the education officials (charged with writing the new regulations) against the colleges and universities training new teachers in Indiana.

As a parent watching the arguments, Huffman says he feels caught in the middle.

“Just because our aim is to provide greater flexibility, we’re focusing more on results now with regard to licensing of teachers — that does not mean, all of a sudden, the floodgates are going to open.”
—Dale Chu, Assistant Superintendent, IDOE

“This licensure piece is just like every single other thing in our political environment today. Everybody’s got their feet in the cement on their side of the issue,” Huffman says.

In fact, the debate has been so bruising that at least one special education advocacy group — one of which Huffman is a part — says it will watch this fight from the sidelines.

Who’s Riled Up & Why

Officials at the Indiana Department of Education proposed the changes to the state’s teacher licensure guidelines earlier this year. The new language — known as the revised Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability, or “REPA II” — hasn’t been adopted yet. In fact, the State Board of Education is still accepting public comment on the new language until Friday at midnight.

It’s a very technical process, and the proposed changes are far-reaching. But there are three changes that make Gerardo Gonzalez, Dean of Indiana University’s School of Education, particularly edgy:

  • Leaving the back door open? The new guidelines would allow anyone who’s obtained any Bachelors degree with better than a 3.0 GPA — even in a field other than education — to take a knowledge exam for a particular content area. If they passed, they would earn an “adjunct permit,” a de facto license allowing them to hold a teaching job. If they can earn “effective” ratings under the state’s teacher evaluation model, they can continue teaching. If they can’t earn those ratings, they’d lose the five-year permit.
  • ‘Testing in.’ Under REPA II, any teacher certified to teach in one subject could become licensed to teach in another subject by taking a content exam. (Indiana teachers hold content area licenses in subjects ranging from English to social studies to technology education.)
  • MA’s for administrators. Principals and building-level administrators would not be required to hold master’s degrees under the changed rules.

“It’s really an across-the-board lowering of standards,” Gonzalez says, adding:

What this does is essentially open up the door for anyone [to enter teaching]. Yes, they might be someone who can learn on the job, be mentored, eventually take some courses, and be successful. Doesn’t mean that everyone will be able to do that. We know from research that two bad teachers in a row can make a whole lifetime of difference in student achievement.

The proposal has also garnered similar criticisms from the Indiana State Teachers Association, the Indiana Music Educators Association, and in newspaper op-eds.

Dale Chu, Assistant Superintendent at the Indiana Department of Education, says those who oppose the change are “conflating” teacher licensing with the schools’ hiring processes. School districts are still likely to hire traditionally well-qualified teachers, Chu says.

“Just because our aim is to provide greater flexibility, we’re focusing more on results now with regard to licensing of teachers, that does not mean all of a sudden ‘the floodgates are going to open,” Chu says.

“This licensure piece is just like every single other thing in our political environment today. Everybody’s got their feet in the cement on their side of the issue”
—Jeff Huffman, Noblesville parent

But, Chu continues, districts need the flexibility to consider job candidates who would work well in the classroom, even if they don’t have education degrees. And, state officials add, the tests non-traditional applicants would be required to pass to get a license would require comprehensive knowledge of the subject area.

On a broader level, state officials point to policy changes — such as mandatory teacher evaluations — for which they say the colleges of education aren’t preparing graduates well.

“We have more tools to use to help students learn and make teachers better. And we want our schools of ed to start using those tools,” IDOE spokesperson Stephanie Sample told StateImpact in March.

Gonzalez doesn’t appreciate the suggestion IU isn’t preparing educators for the classroom. He says he hears more stories of teachers succeeding in spite of state regulations than with the assistance of state regulations.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A teacher at East Side Intermediate School in Anderson instructs students about patterns.

“We have a lot more evidence that our graduates are performing at high levels than they have that our graduates are not performing well,” Gonzalez said, pointing to an IU School of Education white paper showing students taught by education majors score better on national reading and math tests.

The View From The Sidelines

Parent Jeff Huffman says both the IDOE and the schools of education have valid points. On one hand, he tells StateImpact formal schooling must play a role in preparing a prospective teacher for the classroom.

I’m in no way even coming close to saying that I’m a teacher or qualified to be a teacher. It’s taking that curriculum and that skill-set and modifying that curriculum into a way that, not only students of special education, but all students can comprehend and learn from is a pretty unique skill-set. And you’ve got to have some of that training to do that.

But Huffman says many Indiana teachers are being allowed to teach special education with emergency waivers, essentially a stopgap measure letting currently-licensed educators cover a shortage of special education teachers. He says it makes little sense for state officials to advocate for an “adjunct permit” to allow prospective teachers who aren’t licensed to take special education jobs.

Most of the state’s schools of education offer alternative programs for those who wish to transition into teaching from another field. Some of these programs require a full year of student teaching. Others require no student teaching.

On the other hand, Huffman says the state should open some avenues into the profession for non-traditional teaching candidates. Picture, for example, a lawyer, a doctor, or an engineer for Eli Lilly, Huffman says. He wonders, should they really have to go back to school to become a teacher?

Someone who’s been successful in life and in their career should get some credit for that because they’ve had to deal with a lot of the things that the education world is saying you need to  learn. I would also challenge to the education world to confirm to me that when someone comes out of their program, that they would define them as a highly-qualified teacher, guaranteed to be successful.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

An Evansville chemistry teacher assists a student in class.

But The Arc of Indiana, an advocacy group for children with disabilities and their families, has declined to adopt an opinion on the new guidelines, saying the state and the schools of education aren’t debating the changes with students in mind.

(Though Jeff Huffman is on The Arc of Indiana’s education committee, he spoke to StateImpact representing his interests as a parent, not on behalf of the group.)

“Our stance has been neither position, the state’s position nor the university’s position, has been about the education of the student. It’s all about the teachers. And that’s where, unfortunately, education policy falls apart,” says Kim Dodson, The Arc’s associate executive director.

“We don’t think either one of them are right,” Dodson adds. “This conversation doesn’t start with putting students first, and therefore, we think that is unacceptable by both the state and the university.”

For teachers, the fight has been difficult to watch too. IU associate instructor Kharon Grimmet says she disagrees with those who argue an education degree isn’t proper training for a teaching position — and says she feels like teachers aren’t given professional respect.

“People think we’re babysitters,” Grimmet told StateImpact in March. “It’s one thing to stay with a student, or stay with a child, but it’s another thing to make an impact.”

  • Listen to our March story on teacher licensure here.


  • jcq

    This actually brings up many issues with teacher education programs. Namely, the fact that getting a teaching license does not make you a “good teacher.” However, this is absolutely the wrong way to handle this situation. The real reason seems to be the way Mitch Daniels keeps trying to undermine public education, in order to make private options sound better.

  • Anna Rose Kearney

    I have a permanent teaching license in PA but attended college in Indiana. I graduated with a major in history and a minor in education. The only education courses I found of assistance were Ed Psy, Ed Testing and Student Teaching. The other courses were worthless. I doubt if they have changed since I was a student. It is clear to me that those who teach Special Education need special training of some sort. Where and how they get it are immaterial. Demonstrating that they have it should be the key. Colleges of Education have entirely too much say over teacher preparation. My license says I am qualified in Social Studies where in truth I am only qualified in history. I had one course in economics and sociology which does not prepare me to teach them anymore than one course in history prepares others to teach either US, European or Wold history. Standards need to be raised not lowered!!

  • DB

    I mentored a former policeman who came to our school to teach Criminal Justice. He had first-person knowledge of the subject matter as well as a college degree….but no classroom management skills, did not consult curriculum or core standards (just taught page-by-page from the book), did not know how to adapt to students’ learning styles or for different ability levels, and I had to mentor computer-use skills as well. He did not know how to make the subject matter interesting for students (i.e. review activities, graphic organizers, small and large group work, and much more)…in short, a “Trial by fire” type experience. I have worked with others (a Ph.D. candidate who had taught at collegiate level who came to our high school) with similar issues. Knowledge of subject matter is only a small portion of what makes a good teacher! None of the people I worked with stayed in their jobs for very long; too much stress for too little pay was what they told me.

  • Teacher12

    I am in Indiana and Illinois licensed teacher, and they currently have a program like this in Illinois- it’s ridiculous. Passing a content test does NOT make you a good teacher. That just means you know enough to go into a classroom and “wing it.” What about the 10 page lesson plans I do weekly? What about how to make modifications and accomodations for my students with IEP’s? I can’t take my Math Ed degree and go take an engineering test to become an engineer. I would have to get hired somewhere first, work for 4-5 years, and then be able to take a test…problem is: No one would hire me without an engineering background, even if I could pass a test. God help our children when the government tries to rule on things they have never experienced themselves!

    • teejaym

      Teacher 12 – There are hundreds of thousands of non-degreed engineers in the workplace designing everything from aircraft to computer systems. The creative class is less concerned about degrees, certificates and licenses. In the real world if you can make something fly you are valued for your contributions….. Unfortunately, the entrance criteria to our schools of education attract the lowest pool of talent (C average to get admitted at IU) to go into teaching and we are forced to accept teachers with artificial pedigrees that have been issued by questionable means and policies.

      • Daniel Wydo

        There are non-degreed engineers designing aircraft? I think I would rather fly on a plane from a “degreed” and “certified” engineer rather one that’s not. I can’t believe Boeing would hire any engineer without a degree. But I might be wrong. Can you provide a source?

        And while there may be some lines of work that may or may not require degrees or certifications, I think it is important for teachers to be “degreed” and certified. After all our teachers are working with our KIDS, and also they are promoting a philosophy of life-long learning which equates to advanced degrees. It would be like a person choosing a psychologist to treat their kids with no degree or certification.

        The analogy you make among engineers is found lacking. Unfortunately, by de-professionalizing and de-skilling the teacher workforce, it allows politicians to pay them LESS money than what they deserve, based on their dedication in time and money to obtain advanced degrees. This is all about MONEY, period.

        • teejaym

          Hi Daniel,

          Here is a great reference for you how engineers become certified as professional engineers. As you can see, in the state of California (and similar in all states) no degree is required. Also, if you look further if you do not have a degree they expect you to work as an engineer for a minimum period of time before pursuing the EIT certification.

          Thank you for your willingness to learn more about this topic.

          • Chuck Carney

            Great discussion here about a very important topic. Glad to see folks energized and knowledgeable about the subject. However, I do want to clear up one thing. For full disclosure, this is part of my job–I’m the communications and media relations director for the IU School of Education. It’s been repeated here a few times that you can gain entry into the IU School of Education with a C average. That’s incorrect.

            You must have at least a 2.5 average (a B-) in the first two years of coursework at IU before gaining admission. The actual average college GPA of students admitted to the School of Education in Bloomington that fall was 3.39 on a 4-point scale. Students can only enter the SOE after meeting the IU admissions criteria. On the Bloomington campus, the average high school GPA of entering freshmen in fall 2010 was 3.69 on a 4-point scale and their average SAT 1199. This puts the majority of IU entering freshmen in the top 10 percent of high school graduates in Indiana. Among these students, those interested in education as a major must apply to the School of Education and meet additional admissions requirements.

            It’s certainly true, as stated here, that just earning an education certification doesn’t make you a good teacher, just as earning a medical degree doesn’t make someone a good doctor. It’s a combination of talent, hard work, and good preparation as well as the desire to teach and serve our children well. However, it’s a disservice to many great alumni of our school as well as our current students to perpetuate a myth of the requirements placed upon them to enter the program. We should clearly understand what we’re talking about here to have an honest discussion.

          • Chuck Carney

            Should have written in the first sentence of the second paragraph that the GPA of students averaging 3.39 was for fall of 2010.

          • teejaym

            Chuck – Thank you for the very useful information on this topic.

            B- (or where I graduated 2.5 = C+) is a pretty low standard. But for clarity to study elementary education at IU you can be admitted to the School of Education with a 2.0 GPA in content area courses. And of course that same low standard applies for students desiring to study secondary math………..

            For Reference:


            So yes, the standards are very low at IU for admission to the school of education. In my profession we will not hire anyone who has 2.5 GPA. This is the benchmark by which students demonstrate leadership, aptitude, passion and many other characteristics.

            And by comparison to get admitted to the IU Kelly School of Business a solid B is required and the Kelly School on their website provides the following (and very contrasting) clarification:

            “Consistent “B” performance across all courses. Please note that a B– does not meet this requirement.”

            For Reference:


            Hmmmm….. I guess I will stand by my earlier comments that IU has low admission standards to the School of Education.

          • Daniel Wydo

            Do you have knowledge pertaining to the history of teacher shortages we have in this country? You do realize that almost 50% of our teachers leave within 5 years of teaching right?

            Teaching is one of the most difficult jobs one can commit to, especially in conjunction with pay and working conditions.

            Just because we have a seemingly unlimited amount of teachers now (which we still don’t in math and science), that does not mean we need higher academic standards for teacher candidates at IU or anywhere else.

            No offense, but with the combination of the current educational “deformers”, and other people who do not have a grasp on the history of public schools and what public schools need, we are going to have the largest teacher shortage this country has ever known (especially if the economy picks up).

            However, from what has been shared with me recently, this is what the “deformers” want so they can just place a student in front of a computer for 8 hours and call it an ‘education’ (with low overhead and lots of profits).

          • teejaym


            I think you missed the point on why it is important to have high academic standards at our SOE’s. It is not because we have a glut of teachers, but it is because the glut of teachers which keeps wages low (it is about market demands). Of course, this is beneficial to the government because it takes less tax dollars to operate our schools.

            The argument for higher wages is take attract better talent to the teaching pool, so we can create a generation of students that can compete in our global economy……..

            It is simple economics and it works in other professions.

          • Daniel Wydo

            We will never see high teacher wages in this country – in fact we will see the phasing out of teaching before we see higher wages as virtual education is picking up a great amount of steam and is much, much cheaper than conventional teachers. It is a form of outsourcing, just an in-house form.

            I do agree with you that having high standards, and even higher wages, could be beneficial for the profession of teaching; however, I disagree vehemently that such reforms would increase student achievement. I believe we are tapped out on that front. In fact, when you dis-aggregate any performance measure in this country (PISA, TIMMS, NAEP, ACT or SAT) based on poverty levels we simply see that our students that come to us in poverty fail to achieve. This correlation is the most prevalent and meaningful statistic when analyzing the achievement of U.S. students. If it was a case of teacher incompetency or a lack of useful schools, we would see students from every demographic and various schools failing these multiple measures of student achievement. This is not the case. Poverty transcends every variable in student learning, and teachers and schools cannot fix poverty. It is a political, economic, and cultural issue that is beyond our control.

            Our teachers and schools are the best in the world when you control for poverty, of which the U.S. has one of the highest poverty rates for children (23%) (versus Finland – 3% to 4%).

          • teejaym


            Better teachers will not improve achievement? I think explains so much of the problem. For many in the teaching profession mediocre is the course of the day. Yes, teaching may become obsolete, because we need to create learning environments. All people are pre-wired to learn. Unfortunately, our education system today is based on teaching/training. What we need to be developing is 21st century learning environments that produce a workforce of critical thinkers. Today’s teachers are ill equipped to perform this role.

          • Daniel Wydo

            At this present state, if we want wide-scale reform, improving teacher quality is not the way to go. We need our politicians to get out of the pockets of the billionaires and introduce legislation that will reduce child poverty. We need our jobs back (rather than outsourcing or offshoring), and we need middle-class jobs. The more jobs, the less poverty, and the better our schools automatically become. As I said, if this was an issue with teacher quality, we would see widely variable scores among students and schools. We do not see this. We see our middle to upper class students outscoring the rest of the world on PISA. We see our middle to upper class students outscoring poverty-stricken kids on ACT and SAT measures. We also see these same patterns on NAEP. Blaming teachers is getting old.

          • Daniel Wydo

            Thank you for your reply. I find that your link does not work. I did a limited amount of research, and from all indications, engineering requires a college degree. Depending upon what type of engineer, they need at least a two year degree and most need more.

            Your analogy of an engineer not needing a college degree is still found lacking where a simple search turns up many sources contending that engineering requires a college education and certification.

            And perhaps this is important, even beyond our discussion of the given analogy. Even if engineers and other professionals did not necessarily require a college degree or certification, teachers should be mandated to have earned a degree and certification and should be payed considerably more for putting the time and money into furthering their own education. After all, teachers aim to make students lifelong learners, and by achieving such a status, teacher themselves serve as a great role model by displaying various advanced degrees on their classroom walls.

          • teejaym

            Daniel – Yes you cannot gain wisdom and experience from a simple internet search. I find it troubling that you seem to contradict information, but have failed to provide data to substantiate your claims.

            But, for clarity, if you were an Indiana resident you would understand that I have never suggested that teachers should not have certification and licensure. You draw that assumption from my simple rebutal to a claim that a math major could not get hired as an engineer. I have personally hired math majors who have made excellent engineers. I have also hired physics majors who have been excellent engineers. I have hired mechanical engineers who perform exceptionally well in an electrical engineering role.

            So, the REPA II debate in Indiana (and not North Carolina) is whether other professions should have a pathway into teaching by obtaining provisional licenses.

            My argument is that it can work with the right partnerships between the business community and our public schools and SOEs at our universities. And it can be very enriching to our students to bring the real world into context.

            So follow the link and you can see that engineers have a pathway to employment without a degree……

            Prior link was changed recently by the State of California:


            Other states have similar policy as CA, but they have done a good job explaining it.

            So now I am looking forward to seeing your data that excellent doctors and lawyers are moving into the education field and are not qualified. I suppose somewhere the low wages are attracting them and you have seen a statistically significant population and have judge them accordingly.

          • Daniel Wydo

            Thanks for the link. Are you talking about land surveyors? What kind of “engineering” are we talking about here? The employees at my local taco bell are food engineers!

            Show me a link that purports those who engineer bridges, and “design aircraft” (as you put it), do not need a college degree. And even the computer engineers you mentioned are going to need at least a 2 year technical degree from a specialized institution. I still fail to see your analogy here.

            And I do agree with you that people in other professions have and can make good teachers. The halls of our schools are lined with individuals that came from the business world and have done a splendid job of teaching. However, many of them also worked towards a Master’s degree above and beyond their bachelor’s in order to become a permanent teacher.

            I have also witnessed teachers come out of the business world and be competent teachers only to fail the teacher licensure test over and over and over again. One of them is a good friend of mine, a good teacher, and she was ultimately denied a teaching license.

            I have taught for many years and can attest that people have come in lateral entry and fell flat on their faces. They were not ready for the baggage that U.S. students bring to school with them (23% of children in the U.S. live in poverty). I have seen very, very intelligent people go on and become doctors, real estate agents, and lawyers who didn’t last in the classroom for one year.

            There have also been studies out analyzing the effects of Teach for America people, and I don’t believe they have produced statistically significant results.

            The bottom line is this, you could be Albert Einstein, but if you cannot deal with U.S. teenagers, then you might as well hang it up.

          • teejaym

            Daniel – It is pointless arguing with you. I provided you the link that fully explains how to become a registered/licensed engineer and you either refuse to read it or you are intrepretting it from a point of view as having the skills to deal and reason with teenagers….. I am trying to have an adult conversation based on logic.

            If you look at the post that I initially responded to the poster had a masters degree in mathematics and stated that no one would hire her as an engineer. And nothing is further from the truth……

          • Daniel Wydo

            Your link was for land surveyors and similar “engineers”. People who engineer automobiles, planes, computers, and bridges have college degrees. You have failed to show any evidence that they don’t. This is actually common sense. I know many engineers and every one of them has a college degree. You said this: “Teacher 12 – There are hundreds of thousands of non-degreed engineers in the workplace designing everything from aircraft to computer systems.”

            If you want to have a “conversation based on logic”, I am simply asking you to show evidence of this. By the way, it is not that I don’t believe you or respect you. I just question this statement, and you have not shown evidence to support it.

          • teejaym

            Daniel – I really cannot read the document for you. But, here is what I suggest….

            Look again at the title and then look at the common placement between Professional Engineer & Land Surveyor. Maybe that will help you understand……

            And then, I suggest searching for the words mechanical engineer and/or electrical engineer. I really have no desire to talk down to you…. But, try typing Ctrl F and searching for electrical or mechanical and then you can find the sections that will guide your learning…..

            Again, you are trying to gain wisdom about this topic and defend your point and I think this has putting on the blinders…..

            I really can’t help you any further on this topic.

            Good luck in your pursuits and I wish you great success as a teacher.

          • Daniel Wydo

            Thank you for your patience. Please invite me as a friend on facebook. Also, please copy and paste the portion of this attachment that includes the notion that are “hundreds of thousands of non-degreed engineers in the workplace designing everything from aircraft to computer systems”.

            I look forward to seeing that evidence, and, again, thank you for your patience.

          • teejaym

            Daniel, I suggest you go and do your own research. As an engineering professional I am highly qualified to the roles and functions being performed that equate to engineering functions being done in our companies across the country.

            Here is a great link to just one of them. And by the way this story is very complimentary of the teaching profession.


            Now lets talk about one of the most famous engineers in the world – Steve Jobs. No degree for Steve and the many more “engineers” he hired at Apple.

  • teejaym

    But, what makes Mr. Huffman qualified to speak on this topic? He looks like the article was a little heavy on parental opinion for a very narrow segment of the population. It looks like Mr. Huffman is running off uniformed on the overall needs and challenges in education. Of which I am sure he is no expert. And it is almost ludicrous to equate good parenting to asking about a teachers credentials. Now maybe Stateimpact can run an article that actually speaks to the issue.

    • StateImpact Indiana

      Thanks for writing, teejaym.

      Here’s why we spoke to Huffman: He is a member of The Arc of Indiana’s education committee. He spoke to us in his capacity as a parent and does not speak on behalf of the group. But The Arc has studied the proposal and after much internal discussion about REPA II, decided not to adopt a position. Two separate people pointed us to Huffman as a good parent to discuss the issue, and while maybe not an “expert,” Huffman was familiar enough with both the regulations and with the students the regulations will eventually impact to speak to the implications of REPA II.


      • teejaym

        StateImpact Indiana – Thanks for the reply….. But, Mr. Huffman’s position was that both sides have their positions cast and stone and then his whole discussion added nothing to his key point except he can see the views of both sides. And further he suggested that we do not have enough special education teachers, but then in his role on The Arc and in his advocacy for Nash he insists on placement in the general education classroom. So is Mr. Huffman advocating for more and better special education teachers or better trained generalists? If his son is spending most of his time in general education then it sure looks we need better trained and more flexible educational processes in Indiana.

        But, the real point is that 85% of our students in Indiana are not classified as requiring special education services and this article did not incorporate those views. StateImpact needs to broaden the voice. While it is great that The Arc is sitting out this debate, it would sure be nice to hear from parents and advocates who have a significant stake in the development of a 21st century workforce that is rich on science, technology, engineering and math. If the US wants to grow the economy so we have a tax base to provides services and supports for young men and women like Nash then we need to create the educational system for the future. Right now our current educational system is ill equiped and the data shows that we are falling behind globally, so lets discuss the issue of flexible licensing in a wholistic fashion and provide all viewpoints rather than a minority voice who added little to the debate.

        • StateImpact Indiana

          Hi Teejaym,

          I don’t like phrases such as “added nothing” or “added little.” It clearly added something. I actually think the portion in which Huffman talks through his conflicting feelings about it illustrates a potential benefit of both the SOE’s and the IDOE’s approach to licensure.

          I hear your point that SPED represents a minority of Indiana students. But it’s not a journalist’s job to systematically exclude a “minority voice” from the discussion. Huffman is part of a community that’s been especially vocal and exercised about these regulations. And Huffman was not limited in his comments to simply the issues of SPED students. I don’t wish to push forth Huffman as speaking for all parents… but he, as a SPED parent, doesn’t exactly have a view of the world with which a general education parent would necessarily disagree.

          I hear your point I need to speak to more parents on this issue. I agree. I want to hear from as many voices as possible. But you might have to help me understand what you mean by parents “who have a significant stake” in the future of ed/workforce development.

          Since you seem passionate about this, where are you coming from on this issue? Are you a teacher? A parent? And, to ask you this more directly, what do you think of the new REPA II guidelines?

          • teejaym

            Hi Kyle – First of all I appreciate that StateImpact Indiana is very willing to discuss and debate this very important topic and I apology if I have offended. I know that this story was written with the very best of intentions…..

            I will stand by my opinion that the bulk of Mr. Huffman’s comments “added nothing” to his overall point that both sides of the debate have their belief cast in stone……. And my other comment that Mr. Huffman can see both sides of this argument (with no suggested solution) “added little” to the debate (assumed to be true, because he refused to offer a concrete opinion and or solution). So while we can both agree that Mr. Huffman “added something” to the debate we will have to agree to disagree to the profoundness of the overall contribution by Mr. Huffman. And we will have to wait in wonder to understand how Mr. Huffman feels this will impact Nash’s learning.

            I fail to see the distinction between a “SPED parent” and a “general education parent”, especially in the context of providing quality education. To debate the challenges of delivering special education services within the diversity of a typical classroom focused on licensure is very short sighted. I view myself as a parent first, who has an obligation to ensure that all of my children receive an appropriate education. Like Mr. Huffman, I have a child with Down syndrome, but unlike Mr. Huffman I also have two other typical children. To me, it makes very little sense to segregate the discussion along what type or category a parent or student fits into……. SPED or Gen Ed. This narrows the conversation and creates factions (smaller and smaller groups that have conflicting and confounding demands) that cannot come together with reasonable compromises and results. In the end, this is all about having high quality teachers in the classrooms that enable learning for all students (SPED or Gen Ed.). Nothing more, nothing less. We can not make progress on this topic until we stop dividing up along artificial lines that make it look like political posturing by the IDOE and protectionism by the SOE or separate parent groups going toe to toe with one another.

            The fundamental challenges of delivering special education service within our public schools is more limited by the lack of adequate funding than it is by the licensing model in Indiana. A significant amount of over regulation, constraining rules and lack of funding is a key contributor to the shortage of special education teachers. No licensing model will address this…..

            So, let me provide you some clarity on my earlier comment:

            “it would sure be nice to hear from parents and advocates who have a significant stake in the development of a 21st century workforce that is rich on science, technology, engineering and math”

            The ability for Indiana to compete in an ever increasing complex global economy, is dependent on a 21st century workforce that is rich in science, technology, engineering and math. With such a workforce, Indiana can create a business environment that grows our economy and increases our tax base. In Indiana our educational system falls far short of creating this workforce. But a growing tax base is necessary to pay for the costly supports and services required for individuals with developmental disabilities (education and social services are the two largest line items in Indiana’s budget). So, Indiana must focus on creating learning environments that develop the workforce of the future so the revenues are available to provide for the many services and supports that individuals such as Nash need to live as independently as possible. The current shortage of skill workers shows that our educational system has failed a generation of learners and created limited abilities for business to hire qualified workers and for Indiana to attract and retain businesses. And this, directly impacts the amount of money available to fund education and social services……

            So what is my opinion on REPA II? REPA II will solve few problems within the current political climate in Indiana. Dr. Bennett and Governor Daniels have created a large amount of distrust and animosity between educators and politicians, so it is impossible to have a meaningful dialog on this topic. With that said, partnerships with private business, manufacturing and educators will be necessary to create the learning environment required to create the 21st century workforce. Educators will be required to leverage the talents and skills of the subject matter experts of which most are in the private sector. Educators are ill prepared to stay relevant given the disruptive pace in which technology is changing the workplace and the overall economy. If this means licensing engineers, lawyers, business leaders and etc. to participate in the educational process then we need to find a way to do so…… And it needs to happen quickly.

            And we need, to raise the bar on educators. Currently, a C average is acceptable for admission into the IU school of education. As a result, there is a “glut” of teachers in the market which keeps wages low and contributes to the most talented students seeking more lucrative careers in the private sector. So, the SOEs have an important role to play. They need to graduate fewer teachers, but of higher quality with a greater number of paraprofessionals and outside businesses/manufacturers engaged in active partnerships with our schools.

            What is clear to me is that change is required. Change regardless of whether you are a “SPED Parent” or a “GEN Ed Parent” is needed and the differences between the two are subtle enough to not be of issue, except to create one more divisive faction in the discussion.

            So, I will close by saying what I started with. Mr Huffman failed to state an opinion, failed to explain how REPA II would or would not impact Nash’s education and failed to offer an opinion on possible solutions. So what we know is that Mr. Huffman might or might not be satisfied with any future outcomes on this topic. But, he is concerned over the shortage of qualified special education teachers, despite the fact that Nash spends a majority of his time in the general education classroom. Hmmmm…… so I guess we can conclude that he “added something”, but the reader is left guessing what that something is.

          • StateImpact Indiana

            Hi Teejaym,

            Thanks again for engaging with me on this. If I sounded defensive, it’s because I kinda was. In the end, I do appreciate the feedback and I appreciate it all the more because you were willing to go to bat for it.

            Your points are well-taken. As a journalist, I don’t want to push the discussion about them in one way or another — I’ll leave that to other potential commenters.

            I do, however, want to explain my distinction between SPED parents and gen-ed parents, which I understand you feel is somewhat artificial. But understand that my world is full of groups and sub-groups and sub-sub-groups and sub-groups of the sub-sub-groups. Especially in education policy, I can’t help but divide parents into groups based on their experiences. And it has to be this way in my reporting and in my interpretation of the reporting — not because I’m trying to create “divisive factions,” but because it’s not fair to conflate parents of general ed students with parents of children in special ed… or at an even deeper level, parents of children with cognitive disabilities with the parents of children with physical disabilities.

            Maybe we have to agree to disagree on this, but “divisive factions” isn’t something I’m artificially creating. Education policy is characterized by very specific, very passionate views by a bunch of distinct groups.

            Just look at Congress. If education opinions conveniently divided down partisan lines, we would have had a legislatively-approved alternative to No Child Left Behind now. But we don’t, because it doesn’t. That’s just the nature of the game.

          • teejaym

            Hi Kyle,

            Thanks again for responding to my long winded post. I fully understand the complexity of reporting on policy. And I apologize for the suggestion that you are the one creating divisive or artificial factions. I really meant this in the broader sense of the social and political climate that we exist within. It is a reality that these factions exist and reflects an inability to abstract a problem statement to a level that permits a solution to be satisfactorily (not perfectly) implemented that benefits the broadest segment of the population.

            With that said, I remain conflicted as to whether I am a “SPED parent” or a “Gen Ed parent”. Unlike, Mr. Huffman, most families I know that have a child with developmental disabilities have a firm place in both categories, so I will remain steadfast that in the context of REPA II it is of little significance to have separate dialogs.

  • StateImpact Indiana

    Thanks all for your comments! I appreciate the thoughtful discussion.

  • Clyde Gaw

    I am appalled the state seeks to dumb down teacher readiness and negate the probability that all teacher candidates will have the professional understanding, knowledge and tools they will need to effectively provide high quality learning experiences for the heterogeneous groups of children they will personally engage within Indiana classrooms.

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