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May 15, 2014

Indiana gives initial OK to new teacher license

INDIANAPOLIS — The State Board of Education has given its initial approval to an amended proposal that would allow college graduates with a B average in any subject to earn a K-12 teaching license in Indiana.

State schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz tried during Wednesday’s meeting to kill the proposal — the most contentious element of teacher licensing changes championed by her successor, Tony Bennett — but her motion failed on a 6-5 vote.

Critics maintain the proposal would allow untrained teachers to lead a classroom without understanding childhood development or classroom management.

But the board addressed some of the objections by creating a career specialist certificate that would allow professionals, such as those from technology or the arts, to apply to teach in high school. Those license applicants would have at least 6,000 hours of real world experience and undergo teaching training upon taking the job, The Indianapolis Star reported (http://indy.st/1sRAhHq ).

The changes were approved on an 8-3 vote, with Ritz and two other board members opposing them.

Brad Oliver, a board member and Indiana Wesleyan University dean, said he was “struggling” with the licensing proposal and said it appeared to clash with a law requiring Indiana education colleges and programs to be rated on how effective their graduates are as teachers.

“We are the last gateway to make sure that anybody that is in front of a child has had at least modicum similar standards,” he said. “I am not saying they have to go through a full program to get into the classroom ... but how do we ensure quality, and what are the quality controls that people in front of our students are well prepared?”

Other board members said the flexibility would enable local districts to find new talent and hire whom they want.

“I like opening up the field. I think it is opening another option, and no one has to do this,” Marian University President Daniel Elsener said.

The new teacher licensing rules were proposed by Bennett, a Republican, but faced wide opposition from public education advocates. The proposal was approved during Bennett’s last meeting as superintendent in 2012 despite a request to wait until Ritz, a Democrat elected that November, took office.

Those rules were not implemented and another round of public hearings was required last year before the changes could be approved.

The teachers licensing provision approved Wednesday is part of a broader licensing package that the board must vote on as a whole later this year.

 

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