Archive for Sunday, March 17, 1996

NEW LICENSING PLAN HAS EDUCATORS THINKING

March 17, 1996

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Teacher licensing would be a whole new ball game under proposed regulations.

The state Board of Education is considering changes in how Kansas public school teachers are licensed.

In a 129-page report, a committee has outlined proposed regulations on how incoming and existing teachers would be licensed. The multifaceted plan would affect different educators differently. Knowledge assessments would be required of incoming teachers, for example.

The proposed regulations have not been without controversy. Several statewide science organizations, for example, have taken exception to a change that would ax specializations in such areas as biology, chemistry or physics.

Several public comment sessions are set this week and next in the Lawrence area.

"We value the questions and ideas and thoughts of people," said Phil Bennett, coordinator of teacher education for the state board.

Once comment sessions are complete, alterations likely will be made, said Sandy Terril, superintendent of Piper Schools, who chaired the regulations committee that compiled the proposal. The state Board of Education won't consider the changes until next fall or possibly spring 1997, she said.

"We may not see this start for five or six years," she said.

License to teach

Under the proposed changes, licenses would be issued based upon developmental stages of students, not by grade levels. The stages are infancy to early childhood; late childhood to early adolescent; and early adolescent to late adolescent/adulthood.

The reason for that proposed change is children have different learning styles and learn at different rates, Bennett said.

"We're not looking at teachers and kids based upon some artificial facility arrangement (such as grade levels)," Terril said.

Graduates of state-approved teacher education programs -- such as Kansas University's School of Education -- now are automatically certified to teach in Kansas for three years. If they teach for two of those three years, they automatically receive a five-year license.

But the new regulations would change that.

"The state of Kansas, if they adopt this design, will be saying that we as a state have a vested interest in performance of teachers on the job," Terril said.

Incoming teachers would be assessed on their knowledge in their subject area and their knowledge of teaching before they could earn a two-year conditional license, which could be extended for two more years. Before receiving a conditional license, incoming teachers must fulfill other requirements, including grade-point average and ability to perform, such as in student teaching.

A performance assessment would be made of the teacher before a five-year professional license is issued.

"The idea is that they would have the skills," Bennett said.

It's not clear what type of assessment would be required of incoming teachers. And it's not clear who would develop the assessments -- and whether the Legislature would set aside money for their development.

"The assessment piece of it is the great unknown," said George Crawford, a Lawrence school board member who is a KU associate professor of educational policy and leadership.

For existing teachers to renew their five-year licenses, they will have to have amassed college credit and participated in professional development courses that are tied to the new professional education outcomes in the 129-page book. These outcomes, essentially, are what teachers would be required to know and be able to do.

"Current teachers would never have to go back and do that conditional period unless they let their license expire," Bennett said.

Existing teachers also could renew their licenses by achieving national certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

"It is a very rigorous process," Bennett said.

General knowledge

Richard Schrock, an associate professor of biology at Emporia State University, fears the regulations will mean Kansas teachers will become "one-size-fits-all" educators.

Science teachers, for example, would no longer specialize in specific disciplines, such as biology, chemistry or physics. They would be trained in general science. The same would be true of teachers in other areas, including social studies teachers, who now can specialize in disciplines such as American history, world history or political science.

"Then it will be up to the hiring school to determine the quality of the candidate for the particular job that they have," Bennett said. "It will be more in the hands of the hiring institution instead of depending on the endorsement on a teaching certificate."

But Schrock, who directs the biology preparation program at Emporia State, thinks the idea will cause considerable damage.

"One-size-fits-all teachers does not work," he said. "We will have to water our curriculum down dramatically."

He's fearful that someone who wants to teach biology won't be able to take enough college courses in that area to be truly qualified because the student has to be a jack-of-all-trades science teacher.

"They wouldn't know enough to teach," said Schrock, who's written numerous letters against the proposal.

But Bennett's view is different.

"Our expectation is that they will have an integrated knowledge of those subject areas and they will not be taught in isolation," he said.

Bennett emphasized that nothing is written in stone.

"Everything is as proposed," he said. "Nothing is finalized."

What do you think?

Several comment sessions are scheduled concerning the proposed changes in licensing Kansas educators.

All sessions start at 7 p.m. Hearings in this area:

Tuesday, White Concert Hall, Washburn University, 1700 S.W. College Ave., Topeka.

March 26, Shawnee Mission West High School auditorium, 8800 W. 85th St., Overland Park.

March 27, Piper High School auditorium, 4400 N. 107th St., Kansas City, Kan.

If you can't attend a hearing, submit written comments before April 12 to the Professional Standards Board, in care of the Kansas State Board of Education, 120 S.E. 10th Ave., Topeka 66612.

To obtain a copy of the licensing report, contact the board of education, (913) 296-3201.

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