A new license was recently approved by the Indiana State Board of Education for those who do not currently hold teaching degrees but want to teach high school students.
Board members approved the license in a 7-3 vote, saying the move will allow schools the opportunity to hire nontraditional teachers who may be able to bring a different perspective to the classes they teach.
The career specialist permit will offer any college graduate with at least a âB' average the opportunity to teach a high school course after passing an exam. Applicants would also need to log 6,000 hours of professional experience in the course they wish to teach prior to approval. Also, a teacher-training program must be started within one month of starting their new teaching position.
Educators and reformers have been arguing for three years over nontraditional ways to becoming a teacher without a teaching degree. This vote essentially puts an end to that argument.
Current teachers are the major opponents to the initiative, claiming that the move will devalue their profession and place students with unprepared educators, calling the proposal "an experiment on children." Others wondered how the schools would convince professionals to leave their high-paying jobs to teach.
State superintendent of public instruction Glenda Ritz did her best to squash the proposal. Teaming with Brad Oliver, the pair argued that there was no way to track these professionals and compare them to traditional teachers, which therefore meant it lacked accountability.
"I do believe it is possible to have non-college and non-university programs that are quality if we lay the groundwork for it," Oliver said. "But my concern is that the language in the final (proposal) does not do that."
The pair also reminded the board that other permits, such as the transition to teaching permit and the emergency permit, already allow such professionals to transition into the realm of teaching.
In order to qualify for the transition to teaching permit, applicants must first enroll in a teacher-preparation program, while the emergency permit lets a school's superintendent hire a college graduate for one year if the need exists.
"We give a lot of lip-service to local control of public schools and I see this issue as an opportunity to reinforce and affirm our great school principals, great school board and great superintendents to make that decision for allowing people to have a pathway into the profession," Freitas said. "But the gatekeepers should not be at the state level. â¦ That is best done by the local school board."
The permit must still be signed off by the attorney general and Governor Mike Pence prior to December 31.
The state has just won a one-year waiver extension for the No Child Left Behind education law, allowing the state to continue to have flexibility over budgeting $230 million in annual federal funding for programs that are geared to help poor children.
The state's department of education has also asked for an increase in school funding in its budget request for the next two years. The department hopes to use the funds to purchase textbooks and instructional materials, lessening the burden of that cost for parents. Indiana is currently one of eight states that require parents to pay for textbooks.