Archive for Friday, July 28, 2000

Changes advocated in teacher licensing

July 28, 2000

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— A state commission is recommending that Kansas establish an independent professional standards board for teachers.

The new board would take over responsibility for one of the Kansas State Board of Education's biggest powers: licensing teachers. The independent board would grant licenses, monitor licensing and set academic standards for teachers.

The change, recommended by the Kansas Commission on Teaching and America's Future, would require voter approval of a constitutional amendment.

The Board of Education will discuss the recommendations at its meeting next month.

Some say an independent professional licensing body would ensure caring and qualified teachers in the classroom. Others say it would make it more difficult for professionals in other fields to teach as well as fragment education policies and undermine the board's authority.

Mike Perl, an associate education professor at Kansas State University and a commission member, said the current system -- a state-run licensing board -- is unusual. He supports an independent licensing board.

"It's just like any other profession that governs itself," he said. "It would be the same as barbers, the same as doctors and lawyers."

Other suggestions in the report address teacher preparation and professional development, teacher recruitment and retention, and encouraging and rewarding teachers. Board members and commission members say many suggestions follow what the state already is trying to do.

Education Commissioner Andy Tompkins appointed the commission in 1996, after Gov. Bill Graves accepted an invitation from the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future to make Kansas one of 15 states joining a nationwide effort to improve teaching.

Not everyone on the 18-member commission supported all of its recommendations. House Education Chairman Ralph Tanner, R-Baldwin and a member of the commission, said an independent licensing board would discourage professionals in other fields from teaching because they might be required to receive specialized education before being allowed to teach.

This defeats the purpose of putting qualified teachers in the classroom, Tanner said, because professionals are already knowledgeable in their fields.

However, I.B. "Sonny" Rundell, a commission member and member of the State Board of Education from Syracuse, said a professional isn't necessarily knowledgeable and qualified to teach. Rundell said it made sense for teachers to have an independent professional standards board like other professions.

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