The dust has settled on the debate and adoption over REPA 3 licensing requirements, now what?
At the September State Board of Education meeting, the board voted 7-3 to adopt a major overhaul to teacher licensure requirements – a move that significantly dilutes the standards required to enter the profession. The path to final adoption of REPA III (Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability) has been long and full of controversy and was met with strong opposition throughout the process, including from ISTA.
Changes to the rule language under REPA II began under former State Superintendent Tony Bennett during his last days in office (January 2013) in a rushed approval process. Some technical changes were made to REPA II due in part to board procedural issues and were not implemented following Bennett’s loss to Glenda Ritz. What the State Board acted on at its September meeting represents “the final” version of educator licensing rules under REPA III. However, the Attorney General and Governor must sign off on REPA III by December 31st for it to go into effect.
At its core, REPA III is a step that considerably de-professionalizes teaching and lowers the bar to entry into the profession. The most controversial provision of REPA III that the state board adopted is the Career Specialist permit, formerly termed the Adjunct Teacher Permit. The Career Specialist permit waters down the teaching profession in the following ways:
- Allows a person with a BA who graduates with a 3.0 and passes a content exam to become a fully-licensed teacher (high school only).
- Does not require a degree in education. Requires only a degree in any subject and 6,000 “clock hours” of experience in the related subject.
- Does not require pedagogical training in areas such as classroom management, child development, teaching methods or student discipline.
- Career Specialist Permit holder must complete some courses in pedagogy within two years of obtaining the license. However, the requirements are not rigorous enough to meet the same standards that a school of education requires.
- The teacher would be allowed two years to complete, and those students would be instructed by a person who may have absolutely no experience in the classroom.
- The permit holder must complete training in the following six categories, but the initial students in these classrooms will be subjects of this” on-the-job” training experiment:
- Literacy for Adolescents based on scientifically-based research;
- Differentiation of instruction, including methods for students with exceptional needs;
- Classroom/behavioral management;
- Curriculum development/lesson planning/assessment;
- Psychology of child development; and,
- Competence in multicultural awareness and technology.
ISTA has continuously fought against the Career Specialist Permit and was part of a coalition of K-12 and university educator stakeholders that opposed the rule language. The coalition held a press conference in May to highlight major red flags in this permit scheme and encourage board members to change their votes. A number of public hearings, including testimony at multiple State Board meetings, have occurred over the past year. Public testimony, especially among educators and education leaders, has been overwhelmingly opposed to the changes.
ISTA again testified in opposition to the permit at September’s meeting, but the board had already made its decision to adopt the language.
ISTA believes the move is yet another attempt to dilute entry into teaching at a time when we should be elevating the profession to ensure every Hoosier child receives a high-quality public education. Indiana already has had multiple alternative pathways (e.g. Transition to Teach, Emergency Permit) for nontraditional candidates, and there is no evidence that there is even a market for this additional permit. It is bad policy to lower standards and remove pedagogy requirements. Common sense and experience continue to inform us that just because someone knows what to teach does not mean he/she knows how to teach. Our students deserve better. They deserve “the how.”
Since the state is substantially now on record as abdicating its responsibility with regard to ensuring only qualified teaching professionals teach public school children, the line of defense in this will likely move to your local school boards and superintendents who do the future hiring. There are local strategies that ISTA will explore to help ensure that only the best teachers—professionally-trained, and fully-vetted teachers—get to stand before Hoosier children to help them learn. Stay tuned.