Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Controversial Teacher Licensure Requirements Will Move Forward

State superintendent Glenda Ritz voted to remove the "career specialist" license from REPA III, while state board member David Freitas voted to keep it.

Claire McInerny / StateImpact Indiana

State superintendent Glenda Ritz voted to remove the "career specialist" license from REPA III, while state board member David Freitas voted to keep it.

The State Board of Education voted 7-3 Wednesday in favor of Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability (REPA III), a controversial set of teacher licensure requirements.

Since 2010, teachers, principals, and university educators have protested the different versions of REPA, saying it puts inexperienced teachers into classrooms and undermines a traditional education degree with pedagogy training.

Most of those opposing REPA III asked that the “career specialist” license be removed. This license, formerly known as the adjunct permit, would allow anyone with a bachelor’s degree to teach in a related field if they pass a content test and begin a program to improve their teaching skills within the first month of teaching.

Almost a dozen people spoke during the public comment period, including Ball State’s Dean of Teachers John Jacobson, who asked that the career specialist license be removed from the language. Jacobson shared his experience as an educator in Texas when its state board of education passed similar licensure rules, and said it brought inexperienced individuals into the classroom who didn’t stick around long.

Board members Brad Oliver, Troy Albert and superintendent Glenda Ritz voted to delete the career specialist license but were defeated.

Board member David Freitas was one of the seven who voted in favor of REPA III, and said this license wouldn’t guarantee a job to someone who receives it.

“I want to empower local schools to make that decision…who they want as a teacher,” Freitas said.

But board member Brad Oliver, who filed the motion to delete the license, said there is no way to compare the teacher to others with traditional licenses to monitor how the program works.

Comments

  • Hoosier mom

    Finally, some common sense! My sons have both had teachers over the years who could not teach certain topics well – especially math. I’d rather have a math expert teaching him than a generalist who can “teach”. I find (especially in my technical job) that the better the understanding, the better someone can explain it. The very best math teachers I’ve seen are engineers who have gone into the classroom.

    • HoosierTeacher

      For the record, there were not generalists teaching math. Teachers go through a very long program and anyone teaching in a junior high or high school building has a specialty area. As for elementary, there are math classes that are required there too. Please be aware of the requirements before you start bashing the teaching profession.
      As for having a math expert teaching your children, do you really think someone that makes an average of $70,000 per year is going to give that job up to make an average salary of 43,000 per year to teach? With a difference of $27,000, I highly doubt it.
      I am not claiming to know all the answers to the educational dilemmas that our state has, but as a teacher I know the answer is not putting people in classrooms unprepared. Pedagogy, classroom management, and especially student teaching are necessary components to being a successful teacher. Letting an unprepared person into a classroom could be detrimental to students. How long do you think someone that isn’t prepared is going to last?

      • Terry Daugherty

        I have had two student teachers that came from the professional side of science. One was great, the other not so great. Both said no to teaching after seeing what they had to do to be a good teacher.

        I guess with this new special way to be licensed, these teachers will have to find out after teaching a few months that they don’t want to teach. Unless they can’t quit financially.ouch!

      • Hoosier mom

        The people I know who have gone into the classroom have wanted to make a difference in an area they saw a need. I’m sorry if you misunderstood – I see shortcomings in some (not all) teachers. Across the board we have issues. Indiana is not among the top states for an education and this needs to be figured out. My own experiences are 50-50 with getting good, quality teachers in any subject or elementary school. Those numbers are bad. Don’t blame testing and don’t blame curriculum issues. Yes, we need to figure those issues out but they are not the source of our poor schools.

        • Future Teacher

          The fact is Hoosier mom your partially right. However we need to reform at the college level the teacher education programs. Not remove the requirement for a teaching license or even remove that to apply for a job. We need to require our teachers to go through a very rigorous training program.

        • Tom J. McConnell

          Hoosier mom, do you think it will get better if your schools hire people with content knowledge and absolutely no experience in a classroom even as a student teacher or observing in a classroom? That’s what this new law permits. How well will that teacher design his/her curriculum to align with state standards for content, process, and literacy (yeah, three major parts of the standards.) How will that teacher know what is required by law for dealing with special needs students? A normal classroom includes students with ADD, varying degrees of mental or emotional handicaps, physical disabilities, English Language Learners, etc. Does the lab scientist who worked 6000 hours in a quality control lab at a business like Nestle or Kraft know how to adapt their chemistry class for a legally blind student? (Yes, they’ll face that!!)

          Those at the state say they handled that – with a rule requiring that these teachers must “enroll in” a pedagogy training program within one month of starting their teaching job. It has NO language saying they must even complete that program, let alone pass it, or how long that program should be! (Never mind the impact of a month of possibly horrible teaching practices they can inflict in the first month!!

          A “traditionally licensed” teacher needs to demonstrate content knowledge (both in coursework and at least 1 test that some of my career-changer teachers have failed on the first 2 tries. They have to provide evidence that have mastered a variety of pedagogical strategies, and must demonstrate in a classroom in at least 3 courses BEFORE student teaching that they are ready for the classroom.

          And if this is not enough to produce the teachers you think schools should have, how does it make sense to say that now we can get BETTER teachers with LESS understanding and experience in a classroom??

          As a parent myself, I do NOT want one of these teachers running my children’s classroom. Please think about these concerns before you sing the praises of putting a raw beginner in front of your child.

          • Hoosier mom

            At the end of the day, I want the best teachers teaching my children. If that’s education majors, fine. If it’s experts in the field, fine. Yes, they have to be effective. But I believe having a mixture will result in our kids getting the best education possible. I had a young, sincere teacher do a wonderful job for my son one year. I have seen a 15 year veteran incorrectly teach an entire unit on fractions. I know a engineer-turned-high school math teacher who is out of this world. Knowing what it takes to succeed in a world outside of education is what I think will really set kids in his classroom apart. So I want effective teachers. If you think the only way to have an effective teacher is with a degree in education, I feel you’re not broad enough in your thinking – which I think is one of the underlying issues in the sad, current state of public education in Indiana.

          • Karynb9

            Random question – “incorrectly teach an entire unit on fractions” because students were going to get answers that were mathematically incorrect, or the unit was incorrect because you disagreed with the way the teacher was teaching the concepts?

            And, again, the two teachers in your above example can’t be used as reasons why this new path to certification is a good idea because neither one of them followed this new path. Even if neither one received a traditional degree in education, they were still required to complete field experiences with experienced teachers and take courses in pedagogy. No one is saying that those two teachers shouldn’t be teaching or weren’t properly prepared — they’re examples of the previous rules and NOT of these new ones.

          • Hoosier mom

            Incorrectly as in a student was not capable of solving basic fraction problems after the unit was taught unless they had help from a parent or tutor throughout the unit (which most did). We even had, in her handwriting, examples that she gave to kids who went to her for help that were wrong.

            And I understand that traditional teachers will feel threatened with this new policy so I get it. But, as I stated before, the current situation isn’t working so I’m all for this new approach.

          • indyscott

            I still think this ultimately comes down to administrators making the right decisions in the hiring process to do what is best for their school and students which as Hoosier Mom has pointed out will give us the most effective teachers. Overall this change will have little impact on the teaching profession but might open up the opportunity for instances where a school has a specific need and an individual has the desire and ability to fit that need without previously going through a teaching program.

          • karynb9

            This “new approach” won’t fix any of your primary complaints about the “current situation,” which seems to be that some teachers coming through traditional teaching programs aren’t great teachers. As a teacher from a traditional teaching program, I don’t feel “threatened” at all. I’m a highly effective teacher by all measures, so I’m not worried that someone is going to come and take my job away from me. As a parent, though, yes, I am concerned that someone could walk away from their job preparing taxes for a Fortune 500 company on a Friday afternoon and walk into my child’s classroom on Monday morning being assigned to teach Geometry (which they themselves may not have had since they took it in high school…but once you hand someone a secondary math license, you’re licensing them to teach in ALL areas of math). Fortunately, I have a lot of faith in the administrators in my district to make better hiring decisions than that, but I think it’s sad that the majority of the members of the state board of education don’t share that same level of concern for all Hoosier students.

          • Bill Inman

            I am not well versed in the teacher certification methodology or content since I don’t have a teaching certificate. I do hold a terminal degree in my field, an MFA which is a 60 + credit masters. I am wondering though, how teachers in secondary ed differ from those in a university setting as far as the quality of teaching ability or impact. I can teach freshman level or masters level art students at a university supposedly higher level concepts than they previously encountered in their k-high school years in order to advance their skills and send them out into the world to become professional artists and university teachers. I cannot however with that same masters degree teach at a high school level without a teaching certificate because, from what I gather from the comments here, I would not have the teaching skills necessary to be effective at running a secondary ed classroom. I gather as well that those teaching the students who become future secondary ed teachers do not need to have a teaching certificate to prepare those same students to become teachers. I love to teach, I admired and was inspired by my high school art teacher, and the thought of teaching high school students thrills me, but I find it contradictory and counter productive to expect me to spend more years and money to become licensed to teach lower level concepts to the same students I would teach successfully in a university setting. I had a 4.0 GPA with my MFA, I have painted and taught workshops professionally full-time for 20 years, I taught in a university setting for 3 years and yet most on this thread think an administrator should not have the opportunity to hire me if they thought I would be an excellent candidate for their students simply because I do not have a certificate. I assume like me that all on this thread went through at least high school – all of us had excellent and horrible teachers. University programs allow sub-par teachers to slip through and become part of the system. Maybe we should trust the instincts of the school’s principals a little more and not put so much emphasis and faith in a certificate program that is imperfect.
            Sure mistakes will be made, but that’s nothing new. The opportunities for growth seem to outweigh the possible negative consequences.

          • Tom J. McConnell

            I am ok with people changing careers and bringing their experience to the classroom. But I’m NOT ok with the idea that they don’t need some education in pedagogy, educational psychology, and the legal/ethical responsibilities that go along with the job. I’d like to think that’s a middle ground most people would think is reasonable.

            But the new law does not require that at all.

      • Future Teacher

        You make excellent points, and being at one of the top five teacher education programs in the Midwest I can tell you as a future teacher exactly how important it is

    • indyscott

      It is encouraging that local schools will have the flexibility to hire individuals that fit their needs. Most people will see this as a positive and have confidence that the school administrators will make the best decisions.

    • karynb9

      Yes, and those engineers who have gone into the classroom were required, up until yesterday, to ALSO take courses in how to teach math and complete student teaching requirements. No one is denying the fact that there are some people working in non-education fields right now who would make excellent teachers. However, to let that engineer go from his engineering job on a Friday to standing in front of a classroom of students on Monday is doing a huge disservice to that engineer/teacher and to his/her students. Teaching is more than just regurgitating content that you already know — teaching requires turning that content into a dynamic lesson that meets the needs of both struggling and advanced learners while adhering to the requirements of IEPs and meeting the appropriate state standards while using formative and summative assessments to ensure that you’re teaching to mastery. Some of these professionals currently working outside of education have a very idealistic view of teaching and wouldn’t know what to do the first time a student curses at them or falls asleep in class during their “dynamic lesson.” Simply understanding the content you’re going to teach doesn’t ensure that you’re going to do an excellent job of being a teacher — otherwise, every single person who finished elementary school would be guaranteed to be a superstar kindergarten teacher.

      Also, as explained below, a math teacher with a degree in secondary math education has probably taken the same number of college-level math classes as several of those engineers that you assume are so much better in terms of content knowledge — the difference in an education degree at the secondary level is NOT in the number of college-level classes you take in math or in science (if you’re a science teacher), it’s in the electives that you take. The “electives” of education majors really aren’t “electives” at all — those credit hours are filled with classes in child development and pedagogy and field experiences in local schools. A teaching colleague of mine who majored in secondary math education gets especially annoyed at the lack of understanding about the math requirements for math education majors. You see, her job while in college was working in the academic center providing free tutoring services…and several of her regular clients who needed help passing their math courses were those very same engineering majors that everyone thinks are just head-and-shoulders above secondary math education majors in content knowledge.

      • indyscott

        Karynb9, You need to chill out on being so derogatory with anyone that has an opinion that is different than yours. It is one thing to debate and point out your opinion but the constant belittling remarks you make in posts that insinuate that since you are a teacher only you know what is best really defeats the value of any legitimate remarks you make.

        • Karynb9

          I always thought that the point of a debate is to not only state your opinion, but to also state why that opinion is better than alternatives. My opinions are strong and they are based on years of both education and experience. I’m not going to apologize for having them, for stating them here, and for thinking that they are correct. You and others are always welcome to engage me in debate on the opinions that I share. I have posted here for years without a single warning or post deletion for personal attacks (which one would also assume would include “belittling remarks”), so my style of debate seems to be generally accepted and tolerated around here and on other similar forums. I believe that the tone of my reply was appropriate considering the fact that I was replying to someone who felt the need to place my job description in quotes. I thought her opinion was wrong. You think my opinions are wrong. I thought that was the way this whole thing worked.

          • indyscott

            Your right that to debate is to state your opinion and follow it up with some facts but constantly using all caps and demeaning comments isn’t necessary to make your point. Just because you have an education background doesn’t make you better than any other person that comments on here especially when you know nothing about the others commenting. I don’t think your comments should be deleted and I respect the points you make even if I disagree with them but the condescending attitude and tone turns people off from wanting to have a real discussion about the issue.

          • Phil Stone

            “…constantly using all caps,” seems an odd criticism for this post, when I only see one use of caps, for clarity. An education background doesn’t necessarily make you a better person, but it does provide knowledge that most people do not have, regarding real issues in the classroom, how difficult it is to teach various children who all learn differently, and most relevantly, what you need to know before you walk in the door. An expert in any field may be very good at teaching a subject the way they learned it. But a teacher with only one tool in their bag is like the proverbial hammer who sees the whole world as a nail. Trying to pound something into a student’s head, the way they THINK they learned it, brings back recollections of the worse teacher stereotypes.

          • karynb9

            Thanks, and I agree. Too bad you also felt the need to constantly use all caps in your own post. Guess it’s contagious.

          • ScottA

            I WAS TOLD BY SEVERAL TEACHERS THAT I SHOULD BECOME A TEACHER. THEY MADE THEIR DETERMINATION BY WATCHING ME COACH.

          • Tom J. McConnell

            indyscott, ScottA’s post is much more like what you were complaining about. Note the difference?

          • indyscott

            Actually she used it two times above and uses all caps very frequently in other posts. Maybe you think it means clarity but all caps typically means raising your voice which very well can be taken the wrong way. I never feel the need to use all caps and don’t think it is necessary but maybe some feel this is the only way for people to understand.

          • Tom J. McConnell

            Oooooo… two times… a total of 7 letters… in a rather long post. Hardly seems excessive to me!

          • karynb9

            I use all caps for single words or for short phrases when italics, underlining, or bold aren’t an option. I use it purely to emphasis a word or phrase for the sake of clarifying my point. It may be a stylistic difference between the two of us, but to say that it detracts from my points appears a bit extreme. Is it okay with you if I prefer to use an Oxford comma in my writing, or do you also find that demeaning?

            I don’t think that I’m a better “person” just because I have an education background, but I do believe that I’m better equipped than those who do not have similar knowledge to discuss some of the deeper issues of education? Absolutely. There’s a difference between having an opinion and having an educated opinion. I may have an opinion on how to cure cancer, but an oncologist’s opinion should carry more weight than my own. When someone states, as if it’s a fact, that traditionally-trained math teachers are nothing more than “generalists,” and I happen to know that a secondary math ed major at Purdue takes 40 credit hours of college level math classes (28 of those hours from 300- or 400-level courses) while a civil engineering major at Purdue takes only 18 credit hours of college level math classes (with ZERO of them at the 300 or 400 level), doesn’t MY “opinion” that a traditionally-trained math teacher has more than enough content knowledge and is far from being a “generalist” carry a little more weight? It doesn’t really matter how much I know about the background and lifestyles of the others commenting — if they have an educated opinion, I will respect it as such, but if they’re just making assumptions and stating opinions without evidence to back them up, I’m not going to pretend that those opinions are equally valid if I have research and facts on my side.

          • indyscott

            I have nothing against most of the points you make and appreciate your passion and experience but that doesn’t mean that the tone in your comments is acceptable when you come thru with a holier than thou attitude which may not be intentional but comes thru that way. I am also not talking about just this one post here but a continual tone from over the past years. I think you make some really good counterarguments but unfortunately follow those up with some type of derogatory comment to put down something else (engineers, parents, non- educators, or anyone that doesn’t see things the same way as you) which ultimately devalues your main points.

  • Sean IUPUI

    As someone who would meet these new qualifications (having a content degree without an education degree), I am against REPA III. After graduating from
    college with a theology degree, I became a teacher at a private high school in
    the field of religion. I only took one education course as an undergrad.
    During the next three years I had to not only teach but try to learn how
    to teach as well. I found out simply knowing the content very well did not
    mean I knew how to teach it. After a few years of teaching, I came to realize
    that I was not an effective teacher partly because of my lack of training. This
    was hard for me to accept because this was the only job I wanted when I
    graduated and that dream had died.

    I share HoosierTeacher’s concern with unprepared teachers going into the
    classroom in this manner. Having professionals go straight into teaching without the pedagogy and education to prepare to teach does everyone a disservice. This does not mean that no one would be able to succeed; obviously there are exceptions to these rules. But having the experience in teaching while at the same time learning how to teach, you get burned out. If we were to compare it to other professional careers (after all, teaching should be a professional career, right?), I wouldn’t want a medical student to give me an exam without completing their education or a law student representing me when they have not completed their courses in order to take the state bar exam.

    However, HoosierTeacher, you would be surprised in how many people would gladly take a paycut in order to do something that they enjoy and would be fulfilled. Simply thinking that because the pay is not as good does not mean that no one would want to teach; do all teachers go into the profession because they are expecting to make 70,000+ a year when they start (or even when they worked 20+ years?). Hoosier mom is correct in that there are many people wanting to switch careers because they want to make an impact. So I do think that there needs to be options to allow those who want to change careers into teaching to do so without having to complete another degree, but the current REPA III guidelines still fall short.

    I would propose requiring those who are interested a semester’s worth of classes and a combination of classroom observation and supervised student teaching experience (not the same way that education majors are required student teaching; a more condensed, “get your feet wet” version) to confirm that this is a good fit for them as well as getting the experience in knowing some foundations in how to teach before actually putting them in the classroom. A “learning to teach while you teach” approach puts education in the same field as a technical position; teaching is not a mode of operations. There is an art to teaching. Any teacher will tell you that there is not a single “one approach fits all” in learning.

  • Angela

    I really fail to see a problem with this. To my knowledge, it is still a competitive process to obtain a teaching job. Someone with a content-related degree but no teaching experience probably wouldn’t fare well against someone with education experience and training, so no problem there. What this does is allow schools that are struggling to find/keep teachers to cast a wider net for applicants. It’s not like allowing this is going to cause a mad rush of non-education professionals taking over all teaching jobs–they still have to GET the jobs in the first place. If there’s a more qualified applicant, fine. If not, then maybe someone with a mathematics degree and no prior teaching experience is better than not having a math teacher. I used to live in an extremely rural area in a state that embraced this option; it was absolutely essential.

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