Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Need Teachers? Some Suggest Looking Outside Traditional Programs

Some say the road less traveled might be the best route for finding new faces to add to Indiana’s teaching force.

Indiana faces a teacher shortage, and state policymakers have been searching for solutions since the issue came to their attention late last spring. Lawmakers received a slew of recommendations during a meeting of the General Assembly‘s Interim Study Committee on Education Monday.

Interim Study Committee on Education co-chairs Sen. Dennis Kruse, R- (left) and Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, conferred before their group met to discuss teacher shortage statistics on Monday. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

Interim Study Committee on Education co-chairs Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn (left), and Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, conferred before their group met to discuss teacher shortage statistics on Monday. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

One new suggestion came from the state of Georgia, and it’s what some would call “non-traditional.”

Back in 1999, Georgia was going through its own iteration of a teacher shortage, and then-governor Roy Barnes remedied the problem by introducing an alternative licensing program. The initiative created programs to provide testing and six-week training courses for students who proved themselves in their respective subject areas to learn pedagogy that they didn’t get because they weren’t teaching majors.

According to Ben Scafidi, one of Barnes’ advisors in this endeavor, that strategy has been effective. He says nowadays, almost 20 percent of new teachers in Georgia come through these routes.

“If you’re a smart undergraduate and you have good content knowledge, a high GPA, then you are welcome to teach in Georgia,” says Scafidi, now an economics professor at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University and senior fellow at the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. “A lot of students who are smart go to college, [but] they haven’t thought about being a teacher.”

This is not a totally new idea in Indiana. Its something that’s been tossed around during meetings of state Superintendent Glenda Ritz‘s Blue Ribbon Commission. The state employs Teach for America graduates, and career professionals with bachelor degrees can teach in middle or high school classes through the state’s “Transition to Teaching” program.

Indiana also introduced a reconfigured set of teacher licensure standards last year known as REPA III that set standards for hiring content specialists.

But it’s not altogether out of the question, either.

According to Teresa Lubbers, the state’s Commissioner for Higher Education, enrollment in traditional teacher preparation programs declined 37 percent between 2004 and 2014. However, she adds that this drop doesn’t take into account teachers who come into classrooms via non-traditional programs such as TFA, the New Teacher Project – or even those who earned other degrees in college, but earned a teaching certificate on the side.

And Scafidi says Indiana mirrors the nation in the drop of candidates who want to become teachers through traditional routes.

Committee co-chair Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, acknowledges that Indiana is already doing this kind of work, but adds that it might not always provide the most well-prepared instructors for specific subject areas.

“Under REPA III, to be in a program like TFA you have to take your content area exam before you start the program,” Behning explains. “That’s fine for most of them, except special ed. Special ed is something that isn’t something you’re going to find in a traditional program, it’s going to have to be a special education program. That’s one area I have some concern.”

Dee Emmons, a teacher in Kokomo’s Western School Corporation, has another set of concerns. She says programs like TFA tend to look at teaching as a job, and not a lifelong profession.

“It’s stop-gap,” Emmons says. “It’s teaching our young people that teaching is not something that is a career.”

And that attitude, Emmons says, puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the schools those educators populate.

“I think it would be difficult for me to go into a profession and not be trained properly, and expect the people who are trained to teach me how to,” Emmons says. “I think that’s asking a lot. So I don’t know how feasible that is.”

The study committee did not present any recommendations at Monday’s meeting. They will reconvene next week Monday to discuss potential solutions.


  • CFR

    Wow. Nothing like micromanaging teachers transforming them into data-collectors, scapegoating them for the ills of society, cutting the funding to public schools, silencing their voices by destroying ‘em collectively through the dismantling of unions, zapping the creativity and joy and developmentally appropriate activities.. and filling the empty teaching positions with people who have NO IDEA how kids learn and grow and strategies for reaching different learners.. But oh… salivate Indiana GOP: the profits! the profits! Teach for America.. here we come! A whole school system of high turnover, uneducated (in EDUCATION) assembly line workers.

  • Alex

    The biggest problem with bringing in teachers from outside the “educator education system” is that the unique way school systems are run does not meet the expectations of the professionals that are entering. As workers from mostly capitalist enterprises, most are accustomed to a cost/benefit perspective on most operational decisions. Obviously, this doesn’t ensure that bad decisions aren’t made, but it does mitigate the risk. The public education apparatus is full of policies, procedures and busy work that are of little to no benefit to the student or teacher. They are only implemented to experiment, or to provide cover for the jobs of those in state education departments. Teachers that come through the traditional system don’t have any sense that the way system is run is any different from the way any other enterprise is. JMHO as a nontraditional teacher. BTW, we are facing an education crisis that has been occurring with only traditional teachers at the helm, so we can’t put this at the feet of the nontraditionals.

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