College grads with a B average could gain a permit to teach in public schools simply by passing tests in their assigned subject areas under new rules approved Wednesday by the State Board of Education.
The teachers would be required to complete training on classroom instruction to renew the two-year permit for the first time, but they would not be tested on the material.
Supporters said the goal is to make it easier for experts in their fields move into the classroom but it doesn’t guarantee any of them a job.
“This is a pathway into the profession but the gatekeeper” remains school administrators who make the hires, said board member David Freitas. “We shouldn’t be mandating here who gets in.”
The board approved the new career specialist permits on a 7-3 vote, despite testimony from teachers against it. Janet Gibson, who taught 37 years in Fort Wayne, urged the board to vote against the new rules because they would “weaken the quality of education for students.”
“I’d like you to think about putting effective teachers in front of every classroom,” Gibson said. “Aren’t teachers who are well prepared the very best role models for our students?”
The permits are part of a larger rewrite of teacher preparation and licensing rules, known as REPA III. The board actually approved the rules in late 2012 at the urging of former Superintendent Tony Bennett, who was presiding over his last Board of Education meeting. The Republican had just been defeated by Democrat Glenda Ritz, who is now the board chair and opposed the rule.
But that 2012 vote was negated by technical problems that caused the rule making process to restart.
Still, the debate on Wednesday all but mirrored previous discussions about the rule.
Phyllis Bush, a retired Fort Wayne teacher, said the changes are a “solution in search of a problem.” And she said state rules already allow professionals to transition into teaching, although those programs require some instruction in classroom teaching.
Laurie Mullen, president of the Indiana Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, asked the board to change the proposal so that all teachers meet the same standards and licensing requirements.
Board member Brad Oliver proposed stripping the career specialists language out of the larger rule. He said he supports a free market approach that allows schools to hire teachers that don’t have a traditional education. But he said the proposed rule didn’t do enough to ensure the state could track teachers who come into the profession in a non-traditional way.
His amendment failed and the rules passed nearly as proposed, with only a small technical amendment.
Board member Dan Elsener said he’s confident most schools will continue to hire teachers who receive traditional training by a university. But he said the new rule allows a principal to hire someone unique.
“We’ll monitor this very closely,” Elsener said. “We’ll find out if it’s helpful.”
Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.