Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

State Board Tweaks, Approves 'REPA II' Teacher Licensing Guidelines

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Tony Bennett (center) and State Board of Education members discuss the REPA II proposal at their meeting Wednesday in Indianapolis.

In front of a vocal overflow crowd, Indiana’s State Board of Education approved Wednesday a broad suite of changes — known as “REPA II” — to the rules used to issue licenses and other credentials to educators in the state.

State superintendent-elect Glenda Ritz was in the room as the executive panel approved the rules (which she opposed in her campaign but will soon be charged with overseeing) on a 9-2 vote.

Minutes before the vote, board member Neil Pickett requested officials make two changes to the guidelines.

One change, which the board approved by its final vote, dials back provisions in the rule allowing teachers to earn licenses to teach in new subject areas by passing a test. The second change adds a “pedagogy requirement” to a controversial credential that allows a college graduate who didn’t major in education to earn a teaching job by passing an exam.

You can see more on what was in the proposal here.

Before the vote, Ritz urged the state board — including current state superintendent Tony Bennett — to table the provision until she took office.

“We cannot have anything standing in the way of putting qualified teachers in our classroom,” she said in a comment she gave to the board at Bennett’s invitation.

Changes To The Rules

A little more on the last-minute changes to the rule proposed by state board member Neil Pickett:

  • Adjunct Permit. Perhaps no area of the proposal was more contentious than REPA II’s creation of an “adjunct permit.” This provision now allows anyone who has earned a Bachelors degree with a 3.0 GPA to take a test and earn a credential (not a teaching license per se) that would allow them to get a teaching job in Indiana. Keeping that job hinges on that adjunct permit-holder’s ability to score well on their teacher evaluations. After Pickett’s last minute amendment, the provision now includes a “pedagogy requirement.” While the specifics aren’t immediately clear, state board members discussed drawing up requirements similar to what teachers certified for vocational education must fulfill. Those teachers, known as “workplace specialists,” must take college or professional development courses to renew their license.
  • Content Area Exams. As we wrote Monday, teachers have long earned content area licenses in subjects from social studies to psychology to family and consumer sciences. State officials wanted to allow teachers who already held a license to be able to add a certification to teach additional subject areas by simply taking a test — but under the newly-passed rules, there will be exceptions. Teachers will not be able to ‘test into’ content areas of special education, communication disorders, elementary education, early childhood education and — after Pickett’s last-minute amendment — English Language Learner education and gifted education.

‘These Are Not Just Tweaks’

After the vote, Gerardo Gonalez, dean of the IU School of Education, told StateImpact he thought the last-minute changes were steps in the right direction. But he still couldn’t support the proposal.

Indiana’s education institutions are still implementing a 2010 revamp of the state’s teacher license rules, known as “REPA” or “REPA I.” Gonzalez says it was inappropriate to make further changes until the impacts of that provision could be studied. As he told the board in his public comment:

I can certainly see why some minor adjustments to the existing REPA rules may be necessary. But why not wait until REPA is fully implemented and evaluated before adding additional new rules that have no track record or basis in research?

The proposed REPA II rules are not just tweaks; they include several major new proposals as well as the reintroduction of many of the rules proposed in the original REPA and taken out because of public comment. While I applaud your efforts to incorporate suggestions made during the REPA II public comment period, much more work needs to be done.


Proponents: Licensing Isn’t Hiring

State education officials say REPA II’s opponents are “conflating” the licensure process with the teacher licensure process.

“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 of the Indiana Department of Education, told StateImpact in June.

Indiana Chamber of Commerce vice president Derek Redelman echoed Chu’s sentiments in his public comments Wednesday. He told the State Board:

No matter how good your pedagogical skills, it’s not possible to be an effective teacher if you do not know the subject you are teaching. Our current system does not do enough to address that fact, and REPA represents a positive step to correcting that important oversight…

Nothing that you have proposed in REPA I or REPA II will guarantee anybody’s qualification for a job. All that you are doing — other than raising the bar on content knowledge — is providing greater flexibility at the local level and allowing the potential pool of candidates to be expanded. Any candidate for a job must still go through a hiring process where, I certainly hope, the professionals making those hiring decisions will consider all the qualifications of the candidate.

UPDATE, 5:00 pm ET with comment from state superintendent Tony Bennett. He told reporters after the meeting:

The more opportunities we have with the ability to bring talent into Indiana classrooms, talent into Indiana school buildings, talent into Indiana school corporations, I think that’s good public policy

Comments

  • Karynb9

    Any idea on what that “pedagogy requirement” would be or how it would be met?

    • Curious

      They updated it. Sounds like they want to make it to where adjunct holders need to take classes to keep the job. Kinda defeats the point of the category. If an Education major is needed to be an Indiana teacher, Indiana loses out.

      • inteach

        Your bias is showing.

      • Karynb9

        Sounds like what we already have with emergency licenses.

      • Karynb9

        Indiana loses out by having teachers who enter the classroom on day one with a knowledge of differentiation strategies, special education accommodations, and behavior management techniques? Indiana loses out by having teachers who have completed a fully-supervised every-hour-of-every-school-day-for-ten-weeks student teaching experience?

  • Curious

    What was the “pedagogy requirement”?

    • Karynb9

      As my kids would say…”JINX”! :-)

  • Karynb9

    “Our current system does not do enough to address that fact (not knowing the subject you’re teaching).” Did no one feel the need to correct Mr. Redelman (and when did being the vice president of a business lobbying group qualify you to be an expert on education issues and pedagogy, by the way?) by informing him that teachers in Indiana ALREADY have to prove that they “know the subject they’re teaching” by passing Praxis content knowledge exams in their teaching areas in order to get a license to teach?!?

    • Curious

      From the Chamber’s webpage:

      Derek Redelman
      Vice President, Education and Workforce Development Policy

      Derek Redelman rejoined the Indiana Chamber in August 2007 as vice
      president of education and workforce development, a position he held
      from January 1997 to September 1998.

      After his first stint with the Chamber, Derek continued his lobbying
      career and concentrated on education research. He worked as a senior
      fellow at both the Hudson Institute and the Sagamore Institute. Derek
      also founded his own public policy research and advocacy consulting firm
      specializing in education that served Indiana and nationally-based
      clients.

      Derek has authored many reports on various education topics,
      including a 2006 piece highlighting the inaccuracies of Indiana’s high
      school graduation data. Additionally, he has contributed to several
      pieces of Indiana’s notable education legislation, such as the 2001
      charter school law and the recent accountability rules.

      Derek holds a MBA from the University of Chicago and two bachelor’s degrees from Miami University (Ohio).

      • inteach

        So your point is he is an ideologue with no practical experience as an actual educator?

      • Karynb9

        Any classroom teaching or school administration experience?

      • Bilgewater

        Message to Mr. Redelman, Dr. Chu, Dr. Bennett and others:
        “Get thee to a public school classroom and substitute teach.”

  • inteach

    There is a great myth in the education reform world. It goes something like this:

    Hundreds of highly qualified applicants from the private sector are chomping at the bit to get a low paying teaching job. These people would do a better job than teachers since they are from the private sector, which is demonstrably superior to the public sector.

    Most of these people have decided to leave their prestigious positions out of love for children. They won’t join a union since they care so much for children. They are heroes in the making.

    These people have thorough content knowledge, which gaurantees that they will be vastly more effective than the average teacher. Content knowledge is the key to effectiveness.

    These people may lack experience, but experience is overrated. Any competent person can teach. How hard can it be?

    For thirty years, I’ve heard this. And it’s still malarkey.

    • Karynb9

      These are the same people who believe that if a teacher’s lessons are engaging enough, every single student will be present and in their seat on time every day with all of their homework completed and zero behavior issues.

      • Bilgewater

        Some ding-dong administrator in our building was overheard saying something *exactly* like this a year ago, Karynb9. I couldn’t my ears because he/she was once an outstanding teacher in my building. Now there’s an empty husk where there used to be an excellent teacher.

        Good teachers have excellent baloney detectors. For the last four years, my baloney alarm has been going off with all the ridiculous policy from self-anointed reformers. Your comment, Karynb9, is right on the money!

        (Sure wish I could claim the baloney detector comment as my own invention–but that one came from someone who was writing about Education Secretary Duncan.)

    • tcher.ed

      Amen, inteach! I have been forced to teach in an alternative licensing program that makes the same faulty assumption. They seem surprised that a) the number of applicants keeps declining, b) the quality of candidates has been much lower than the organization reports, c) the number of candidates who drop out when they realize how difficulty the job is continues to rise, and d) some of the teachers graduated from the program 2 years ago are talking about getting out as soon as they meet their required obligation.

      There is REAL data from REAL programs in Indiana that support inteach’s statement, and NO evidence from ANY research to suggest that Tony Bennett’s proposals will have the desired effect.

  • Iteach

    So….if I (I’m a teacher of 23 years) study and pass the bar, I can become a lawyer? Or, if I study and pass the state boards for medicine, I can become a doctor? Seems only fair.

    • Bilgewater

      Can I pass a test to be on the State Board of Education so I can be equally unqualified?

  • teach

    If these new experts in their fields/teachers are as smart as they are supposed to be they will stay out of teaching. I have taught for 26 years and no raise for the last 4 years. As the pay scale is set up now there is no guarantee for even a cost of living raise. The RISE evaluation process we are using in our school is an excuse to not give raises. Even if a teacher is “highly qualified” there is no guarantee the money will be there for a raise. Repa II is just another excuse to ruin the teaching profession with wannabes.

  • D. Stouffer

    I am disgusted at the level of political games that Governor Daniels, Governor-elect Pence, Out-going State Superintendent Bennet, and the State School Board have invested in these issues.

    Currently, the 10th graders in my high school take 11 (ELEVEN) standardized ENGLISH tests in addition to the English teacher’s unit tests.

    Educators are not anti-reform. BUT 11 standardized tests in English over the course of one school year is ridiculous. This is what happens when government, influenced by non-educators, forces its ideology without really knowing what the impact will be.

    As regards REPA II, the weakest teachers in my system (in both content and classroom management) are the “teachers” who have the watered-down licensure, i.e. teaching in a minor area, teaching in an area where they only took a praxis test, teaching in high school with an elementary license.

    My system is so financially strained that we will only be left with teacher candidates who can’t get jobs elsewhere and don’t have pre-REPA II licenses. Thanks a LOT!!!

    My students deserve better than half-competent. Preparing for my vocation continues to be a journey, even after 30 years. If a pre-med student is really gifted in the medical field, don’t we want him/ her to go through the proper, time-honored, prove your abilities through the training, residence, and licensure journey? I expect the same of the teacher in the room next to me!

    The students in my school deserve educators who didn’t take the short-cut. I want colleagues who actually have a talent at blending academic content, creativity, classroom rigor, discipline, AND all the social working skills that are now needed in today’s schools. How do we prove/ acquire that near-impossible synthesis? DUhut, duhut, duhut . . . a four hour test will do.

    I am always dubious of short-cuts. Thanks, State School Board, for not realizing how your idealism will actually play out in the schools. The State cuts off funding, makes additional unfunded mandates, AND NOW saddles our schools with the least prepared incoming teachers.

    Governor Daniels, taking pot shots from behind a Washington DC microphone, called me a dinosaur. Naw, Mitch! I’m just a stooge for continuing to put up with foolishness draped in the trappings of pseudo-reform.

  • Josh

    You know I left my high paying private sector job because of my love for children and the thought that if you knew enough and created engaging fun lessons students would fall over themselves to learn. THEN I started teaching and realized that was a load of crap. I almost died my first year, literally. It wasn’t until I took my classes on pedagogy that I was successful. I used to listen to the reformers talk and say “Yeah that makes a lot of sense.” “Why are teachers against what is obvious.” I realized after I started teaching that students are products that you can turn out, that they require delicated handling individual attention, there is no mass manufacturing involved, everything is custom order. Friends of mine who don’t get what I have been saying just think that I have fallen under the spell of teachers and their unions. I always offer them the opportunity to come teach for a week yet they never take the opportunity. I give the same invitation to anyone pushing education reform that hasn’t been in a classroom of low achieving school in the last few years.

    • kystokes

      Hi Josh. I’m in touch with another teacher who did an alternative certification program and really felt he didn’t need the preparation of pedagogy and classroom management courses — he’s gotten along fine without them. I’m working on a radio story about REPA II, would you like to offer a counterpoint to his point? Let me know — kdstokes@indiana.edu

  • retiring2

    This has never been about improving the quality of education. The right wing is dedicated to destroying public education system. Any time the Chamber of Commerce is associated with an issue, it is the same pro-business and profit driven greed you see in every election. They want the federal funding dollars provided for each student to flow to “Private Schools”, so the money makes the rich richer. Anyone can educate or sit and watch a bright private school student excell-I noticed that the state wants no part of special education. Its all about money…

  • Zoot

    Inteach, you make a good point, but there is a demographic that makes Repa II make sense, and I am a member of it. I have a bachelor’s degree from Purdue and master’s degree from Berkeley, both in history, and have taught college, community college and high school at college prep academies for the last 10 years. I’m not certified, and have done a fair amount of pedagogical training, but not enough or in the right contexts to gain certification. I have won multiple teaching awards, and have great mastery of my subject as well as managing a classroom. Under the old laws, I couldn’t get a job in a public school, which is ironic, because in the past, parents were willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars in tuition to have their children taught by me and other people like me. I agree with you, teaching itself is a skill and not everyone can do it well. But I like Repa II, because it opens up job opportunities for me without having to obtain an education degree. As the article highlights, Repa II doesn’t guarantee hiring, but it means that talented educators like me don’t have to be shut out of employment.

  • Zoot

    Additionally, I attended Indiana public schools, and while I had mostly amazing, intelligent teachers, I also had several who really didn’t have the knowledge of their own field that would have been ideal. I sat in a history class at my old high school after I got my masters and heard a history teacher mispronounce half the names of the historical figures. My AP English lit teacher couldn’t answer and therefore ignored my questions about Beowulf. It was frustrating. And be honest with yourselves– how many of you guys got through your first year armed with your fresh education degree and were fully equipped to deal with the realities of classroom teaching? Did you improve with time and experience? I know I did; I picked up tricks from other teachers, read articles about specific problems, and grew in my pedagogical skill. I did meet a handful of people who left more lucrative careers to teach at a 10-day institute run by Teacher’s College at Columbia University which I participated in in 2010. They’re incredible teachers. But I think Inteach is right, that is rare. I guess at the end of the day, I’ve long thought that it was absurd that I wasn’t allowed to teach public school because I wasn’t good enough, but only good enough for the children of wealthy people grooming them for elite universities. Oh, and those prep school students act up and don’t do their homework as well. Their parents are just more powerful, high maintenance, and used to getting their own way.

  • GeoLove

    I’m a college senior majoring in a science. I currently tutor non-science major students who, ahem, learned science from education majors. I love science, I’m good with children, and I’m an excellent communicator and tutor. Teaching secondary science became my FIRST choice when I learned about REPA II, even knowing full well that I could start out at $120K/year if I went for my masters. I am excited about the prospect of becoming a teacher. However, I am not excited about the politics and fighting through the poor “old guard” attitudes that are evident in the majority of these comments. I’ve already felt the contempt and resistance here on my campus. I feel I would make a great teacher, and have been told the same by my peers. Let’s hope my ambitions to become a teacher aren’t sabotaged by short sited bureaucracy and ner do wells.

  • Mr. E

    Where do you go and who do you contact about taking this test?

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