News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 5, 2012

B of E to consider contentious change to teacher licensing rules

Opponents contend new rules would lead to ‘de-professionalization’ of teaching business\

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Today, the Indiana State Board of Education will consider a controversial plan to change teacher licensing rules, known as REPA II.

The topic is on the board’s agenda as an action item. The meeting is at 9 a.m. in Indianapolis at the Department of Education, 151 W. Ohio St. Public comment will be allowed at the end of the meeting, according to the agenda — after the board considers Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability, REPA II in shorthand.

State education officials have advocated for the changes as a means of providing more flexibility to administrators in their hiring of  teachers.

The proposed rules would ease requirements for getting a teaching license in Indiana. Under one provision, college graduates could get a teaching permit by passing a standardized test, without taking courses in education. Under another, a licensed teacher could become certified to teach in other areas by passing a test, without additional coursework.

Critics, including Brad Balch, dean of Indiana State University’s dean of education, believe the proposed changes “would contribute to the de-professionalization of our business” and lower standards for the teaching profession.

Another opponent is Glenda Ritz, incoming state superintendent of public instruction, who defeated incumbent Tony Bennett in the November election.

Vic Smith, a retired educator and retired associate director of the Indiana Urban Schools Association, closely follows issues affecting public education. He believes REPA II would lower standards for teachers and administrators.

Under one provision of REPA II, he explained, any applicant holding a bachelor’s degree who passes a content test and has a 3.0 grade-point average in the content area in which the applicant intends to teach can get a five-year teaching permit, called an “adjunct teacher permit.”

  “This permit allows teachers into the classroom who have had no teacher pedagogy courses,” Smith stated. Also, they don’t have to complete student teaching, he said.

“This is a bad idea which negates all we have learned about preparing teachers in the past century,” he stated in comments distributed by email to many educators.

Also, a teacher licensed in any subject could become certified to teach in other content areas simply by passing a test. The state made a revision “revealed Friday” that removes four instructional areas from the “test only” provision:  exceptional needs, communication disorders, early childhood and elementary education.

REPA II also changes requirements for principals and superintendents, Smith said. Principals would not have to have a master’s degree, and a superintendent would not have to have an Ed.S degree.

Also, according to Smith, recent revisions to REPA II “cut the classroom experience required for an administrator license from five years down to two years and would count teaching experience in higher education as classroom experience for qualifying for a K-12 administrative license, either as a building-level administrator or as a superintendent.”

Smith also noted that the revised REPA II proposal “shifts the authority for approving teacher education programs at universities from the Indiana Department of Education, which would be supervised by the state Superintendent, to the State Board of Education. The votes on approving programs would be in the hands of political appointees on the State Board rather than the elected State Superintendent.”

Smith stated in his “Vic’s Statehouse Notes” that “I am outraged that so little time has been allowed from Friday afternoon to Wednesday’s vote (five days) to review these major changes [to REPA II], after IDOE took five months to prepare the revisions.”

The agenda confirming that REPA II would be voted on Wednesday was not released until this past Friday afternoon, he said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.