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Editorial

Reconsider REPA: Looser teacher rules serve students poorly

Next time you undergo a medical procedure, ask whether any of the health professionals involved in your care are working under a “career specialist permit.” Perhaps a medical device sales representative working as a surgeon? A hospital administrator as a registered nurse?

Or, in a legal setting, can you find a former bailiff licensed as an attorney under a career specialist permit?

Ludicrous, right?

Not to the Indiana State Board of Education. The panel voted 6 to 5 last month to issue a secondary-level teaching license to anyone with a bachelor’s degree, at least a B average in a content area related to the subject they will teach and three years of work experience in a related field. No education degree or previous classroom experience is required to start.

Notably, the five votes against the proposal were cast by the board’s practicing educators, including Cari Whicker, a language arts teacher at Huntington’s Riverview Middle School and Troy Albert, principal of Henryville Jr.-Sr. High School and a graduate of Manchester College and IPFW. Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz also voted against the adjunct license provision, which garnered overwhelming opposition during public testimony on the third round of Rules for Education Preparation and Accountability, or REPA III.

The teacher preparation and licensing overhaul began under former state Superintendent Tony Bennett, whose administration promoted the claim that colleges of education focus too much on pedagogy – instructional methods – and too little on subject-area content. He unsuccessfully sought to limit the number of education credit hours universities could require for education students and to determine the courses education programs include in their curriculum. His administration’s effort to lower required standards rightly met opposition from the Indiana Professional Standards Board.

Efforts to weaken the state’s education infrastructure were not Bennett’s alone, however. The General Assembly passed and Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a law to dismantle the professional standards board and transfer its authority to the State Board of Education, whose members are appointed by the governor. At his last meeting before leaving office, Bennett and the newly empowered state board pushed through REPA II, allowing individuals to teach without taking any education courses.

But Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office objected to the changes and sent the new rules back for revision. The board missed a deadline, so the year-long rule-making progress had to be restarted, bringing the State Board of Education back to its current effort to lower standards for the teaching profession.

Supporters of the weakened requirements claim that the career specialist permit brings new talent to Indiana schools, but the state already has three alternative pathways to licensing: an emergency permit where teaching shortages occur, the transition to teaching license and an advanced-degree license.

Each of the pathways requires the vital classroom experience the career specialist permit lacks. The push to place inexperienced instructors in front of Indiana students puts a lie to any claims of raising education standards.

The state board meets Wednesday, but REPA III is not on the agenda. If the board members who supported it truly support raising Indiana education standards, they will ask that it be reconsidered.

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