Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Teacher Retention As Important As Teacher Training?


    Brandon Smith, IPBS

    Vernon Smith speaks at the rally opposing REPA III changes.

    The Indiana State Teachers Association voiced opposition against the state’s proposed teacher licensing rules that don’t require potential teachers to have an education degree and push back pedagogy training to be done during the first year on the job at a press conference today.

    Those who spoke asked the State Board of Education to remove the “career specialist” certification from REPA III, which allows someone with a relevant bachelor’s degree, a 3.0 GPA and 6,000 hours of experience in a related field to be a certified teacher after passing a content test.

    Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Brandon Smith reports that even if the permit is approved, it is only one option for a teacher to be certified.

    State Board of Education spokeswoman Lou Ann Baker stresses that the permit is optional and allows schools to fill positions of need.  And she notes a previous version did not include any teacher training requirement – which prompted the Board’s creation of the Career Workplace Specialist permit:

    “Loudly and clearly, the call for pedagogy training was heard,” Baker said. “It was heard by the Board members, it was heard from folks in the public testimony, and it is included in the existing rule language that was adopted by the Board.”

    Baker says the new permit is modeled on existing teacher licensing programs that allow people without teacher training to get a permit while taking pedagogy courses.

     But Teresa Meredith, President of the Indiana State Teachers Association, spoke about the importance of taking child development and psychology courses before teaching.

    “This is essential for being able to manage a classroom of students and not to just share information,” Meredith said. “[The career specialist permit] is a pathway for someone without proper training to be placed in front of a classroom of students without ever having any experience or observation time with real professional educators or time spent with real live students.”

    Once teachers are in the classroom, how do we keep them there?

    The changes to REPA III are stirring a debate about teacher preparedness, but it’s also worth taking a look at whether teacher preparedness affects how long they’ll stay in the classroom.

    A new report from the Carnegie Foundation shows the teaching population in the United States is less experienced and leaving earlier than it was a few decades ago. During the 1987-1988 school year, the average teacher had 15 years of experience. In 2007-2008, the average experience dropped to one year.

    And these teachers who stay in the profession for less than five years (the average for a teacher today) come from all training programs, including four year degrees in education.

    So why are they leaving? The problem cannot be blamed on low teacher salaries writes Susan Headden, the author of the report:

    Rather, the primary driver of the exodus of early-career teachers is a lack of administrative and professional support. The problem takes many forms, including the feeling of being isolated from colleagues, scant feedback on performance, poor professional development, and insufficient emotional backing by administrators. Quite simply, teachers don’t think the people they work for care about them or their efforts to improve.

    No matter how much student teaching, pedagogy training and mentoring a teacher gets before starting in a classroom, once there they need just as much or more support to stay in the profession and improve through years of experience says Headden.

    “Meaningful induction means giving new teachers trained mentors,” Headden said. “Meaning fellow teachers who serve as counselors, coaches and therapists. These mentors are, number one, very effective teachers and number two, have been through training programs, to teach adults.”

    Meredith says lowering the requirements for teacher certification under REPA III will only add to teacher turnover in the state.

    “I don’t think these folks will come into the classroom and find the perfect environment that they might be expecting.”



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