State Board of Education Chairman Bill Wagnon
Topeka School officials from across Kansas on Tuesday urged the Kansas State Board of Education to loosen teacher licensure requirements to help manage a teacher shortage.
And a Kansas University official told the board that a new experimental program to produce more teachers quicker may be what the state needs on a larger scale.
"We think this is a solution for some of the issues coming out in the production of teachers," said Steve Case, an assistant research professor with KU's Center for Science Education.
The meeting of educators and elected officials came during a public hearing before the board votes today on changes in teacher licensure requirements.
School superintendents said Kansas is hurting itself in recruiting and retaining teachers.
Some of the districts complained that the state makes it difficult for teachers who have licenses from other states to teach in Kansas and for licensed teachers to get a license at another level or another subject. Kansas also makes individuals with degrees in areas of need, such as math and science, complete numerous requirements before they can teach.
"When districts share the barriers to hiring qualified educators, we listen, problem-solve and recommend solutions," said Deborah Haltom, vice chairwoman of the Kansas Professional Standards Board.
The recommended licensure changes would allow teachers who are licensed in one science subject to become licensed in another science subject, as long as they pass a subject competency test. It would also make more flexible requirements for teachers teaching a subject at the middle school level to teach it in high school.
The changes were supported by school administrators, teachers and higher education officials. Representatives of those groups said the changes wouldn't reduce the quality of Kansas teachers.
But John Richard Schrock, chairman of the biology department and director of biology education at Emporia State University, called the proposed changes "a backward step."
He said that just because an individual passes a competency test doesn't make him or her a qualified teacher.
The test, he said, "lacks the ability to test a teacher's ability to be excited about something" and turn kids on to a subject.
Education Board Chairman Bill Wagnon said while the recommendations would allow more flexibility for teachers, "it doesn't do anything to enlarge the pool" of teachers.
Case, from KU, touted the school's recent program in which the colleges of liberal arts and education are joining forces in a four-year program that would produce graduates who hold degrees in math and science and are certified to teach. The pilot project started last semester with 30 students, and Case said KU hopes to broaden the program through private grants.
"We want to offer multiple pathways for students to be math and science teachers," Case said.