Tuesday, December 1, 2009

State revises teacher licensing proposals

State revises teacher licensing proposals after input: Final vote on revised draft expected on Jan. 7

By Andy Graham, Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.
27 November 2009

Distributed by McClatchy - Tribune Information Services

Nov. 27--Some proposed revisions in state teacher and administrator licensing requirements have been rewritten or discarded after a flood of public comments.

Feedback regarding the Indiana Department of Education's Revisions for Educator Preparation and Accountability proposals was clearly felt, as evidenced by the subcommittee reports submitted to the State Professional Standards Advisory Board in the wake of three earlier public meetings.

Jill Shedd, Indiana University assistant dean for teacher education, praised the board and Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett for paying heed to the public input.  "I attended all the hearings, and I see the fingerprints of the feedback on the changes and alterations made," Shedd said. "So I give Dr. Bennett and the advisory board a lot of credit for being open to it, for seriously considering it, and acting upon it. Dr. Bennett said right at the start of the meeting last week that the advisory board and his department had received a lot of comment, both during the public hearings and on their Web sites, and said they had listened. And they did, in fact, listen. They proved both receptive and responsive."

Some of the recent alterations include:
The proposed imposition of new credit hour limits and requirements for approved school of education programs has been deleted.  Content standards for coursework requirements will revert to the existing 2002 guidelines.

The P-3 (preschool to grade 3) license, which the REPA proposals had initially altered to a P-6, has now been retained.  Shedd noted that the P-3 license permits four-year university programs to emphasize expertise in those early grades, over what would have been a more diffused effort to prepare teachers for K-6. "That's good news, I feel, because there is a need for real depth of knowledge regarding preparing very young children in terms of literacy and social development," she said.

Shedd also said that a reversion to 2002 standards of coursework requirement preserved crucial academic freedoms for college faculty.

"We've appreciated the (2002) system we're under now," Shedd said, "where we essentially say to the state, 'Set high standards for us, tell us what you expect, hold us accountable -- define the field for us, but then give the faculty the freedom to define the best way to meet those standards.' That's what the 2002 rules do."
The new REPA alterations aren't permanent, yet. Bennett's department simply has permission to change its draft proposal with the approved language.

A revised REPA draft will be reviewed at future meetings, and the advisory board hopes to conduct a final vote Jan. 7.  But the atmosphere surrounding the proposals, often contentious in previous weeks and months, has become more cooperative.  IU School of Education Dean Gerardo Gonzalez said this week he feels better about the state's proposals than he ever has, and that he supports the state's impetus toward reform.

"I think the process has worked as intended," Gonzalez said. "I think the fact the process called for a formal period of public comment was a very positive thing. A lot of people with a lot of differing views commented on the rules. You still don't know at the end of the day how exactly it'll all turn out, but I hope and expect that we will end up with stronger and better rules than when this whole thing started.

"The quality of the teacher and the building-level leaders is the single most important factor we have, in the school buildings, in producing student achievement. That needs improvement and attention. That's what this process is about."

Shedd agreed. She said that while the state has listened to input, IU's School of Education is listening to the state's calls for reform. "Here in Bloomington, I can tell you we've taken to heart the message from the state that we seriously need to look at our teacher preparation programs, we need to affirm that our students have great content knowledge and to revisit the number of hours required to meet or exceed standards."

Gonzalez noted that federal Race to the Top funds -- with $4.3 billion available to states pushing reforms such as better standards and assessments, taking steps to turn around low-achieving schools, and attracting and retaining effective educators -- require states to show good collaboration between government and educational stakeholders.

"We're seeing that now being demonstrated with the REPA process," he said.
To see more of the Herald-Times or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.heraldtimesonline.com/
Copyright (c) 2009, Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.



  1. The fact that the process calls for a period of public comment was given only the most rudimentary lip service.

    The fact of the extremely limited time this entire proposal was in the public consciousness is a testament to the current leadership's "mandate from the people" attitude.

    Education is far too important to leave to professional politicians.

  2. Here Here!! The sheer disregard for democratic process and transparency is perhaps the most troubling aspect of all