Education
2:43 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

Education officials approve licensing changes

A state panel has voted to make it easier for non-education majors who earn Bachelor’s degrees to get teaching jobs.  That’s one part of a broad package of changes to Indiana’s rules for teacher licensing the State Board of Education approved Wednesday. But opponents fear the new standards sets the bar too low.

The State Board’s final 9-2 vote ends months of debate on the proposal known as “REPA II.”  State education officials say the new guidelines give schools more flexibility in the teacher hiring process. 

State superintendent Tony Bennett says the rule changes remove licensing as an obstacle to the teaching profession for non-traditional applicants.

“The more opportunities we have with the ability to bring talent into Indiana classrooms, talent into Indiana school buildings, talent into Indiana school corporations, I think that’s good public policy,” Bennett said.

REPA II also allows current teachers to become certified to teach in new content areas without taking additional coursework — all they’d have to do is pass an exam.  Building administrators are no longer required to have a Master’s degree. 

But REPA II also caused controversy.  After overwhelmingly critical public comment this summer, state education officials removed some of the proposal’s most contentious points — such as a provision that would have based a teacher’s ability to renew a license on evaluation results. 

IU School of Education dean Gerardo Gonzalez says the revisions did improve the final package, but it's not a political tradeoff.

"We’re talking about the education of students," Gonzalez said. "We’re talking about kids who need adults in those classrooms who are well-prepared. Why lower the standards? Why lower the bar?”

State superintendent-elect Glenda Ritz attended the state board meeting in Indianapolis Wednesday.  She opposed REPA II during her campaign, and in remarks to the board asked members to table the proposal until she took office.  They declined.

You can find more stories from our StateImpact Indiana team covering education at http://stateimpact.npr.org/indiana/.