The Kansas State Department of Education wants to study a proposal to make it easier for teachers from other states to become licensed in Kansas.
But some higher education officials are worried that expanding “reciprocity” of teaching licenses could water down the quality of prospective teachers because many other states have less stringent criteria for entering the profession.
“The issue here is reciprocity, that every state will accept teachers trained in every other state, a process that will drop to the least common denominator,” said Richard Schrock, a biology education professor at Emporia State University.
In December, the Council of Chief State School Officers, a national organization of state education agency heads, issued a report listing 10 recommendations for how states could improve the teaching profession nationwide. One of those called for reforming state licensing procedures to allow “true reciprocity” across state lines.
The council is now making grants available to states to study what it would take to implement those 10 recommendations. Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker confirmed last week that KSDE is applying for one of those grants.
She said the Kansas State Board of Education will hear a report about the grant application when it meets in Topeka today. But she said the grant would not commit the state to changing any of its licensing regulations.
“The CCSSO grant, if approved, would give us the opportunity to study all 10 recommendations,” DeBacker said in an email to the Journal-World last week. “Reciprocity is one of the recommendations but even with that, the study does not define the degree of reciprocity.”
“Any new licensure system must take into account the fact that new generations of workers anticipate having multiple careers across their lifetime,” the report stated. “Education policy needs to accommodate career changers and create flexibility that allows them to become an education professional without undue burdens."
Kansas currently has some of the more stringent teacher licensing standards in the country, according to several education officials.
In general, Kansas requires teachers to graduate from an accredited teacher preparation program. That includes completing a training experience program such as a semester of student teaching and passing competency exams, both in the content area where the person wants to teach as well as in the methods and practices of teaching a particular subject.
For high school-level teachers, officials said, Kansas requires roughly the same number of college credit hours in the subject area they want to teach as it would take to get a bachelor's degree in that subject.
Kansas also has an alternative pathway to get a teaching license for people who already have a a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. But it requires passing a test in the content area where the person plans to teach and going through a practical training experience, such as student teaching, under the supervision of a college or university.
The CCSSO report is a proposal to standardize teacher preparation across the country,” Schrock said. Kansas is one of 11 states that train biology or chemistry or physics or earth science teachers in depth; 38 other states and DC train one-size-fits-all science teachers who have one-fourth the coursework in any of these disciplines. At 38-11, we lose and will have to drop to one-size-fits-all under reciprocity.”
But officials at the Kansas University School of Education, which endorsed the state department's grant application, said they are less pessimistic about expanding reciprocity.
“I can see both sides,” assistant dean Sally Roberts said. “Just having a teaching license doesn't guarantee a job. Principals can look at their transcript. The few that might come in from a less strenuous state still have to go through the rigor of competing with other individuals that are going to be better prepared.”