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Utah teacher shortage: New Board rule lowers standards for teacher licensure

6/29/2016

Utah Teacher Shortage

New Board Rule Lowers Standards for Teacher Licensure

In June 2016, the Utah State Board of Education passed a rule creating a new teacher license called the Academic Pathway to Teaching (APT). This rule was written, debated and passed in just two weeks. UEA spoke against the rule at the Board committee hearing and before the full Board. Below is important information about the new license and UEA’s request for action by the Board.

UPDATE: In response to multiple requests, the State Board of Education has scheduled a hearing on APT licensing for Tuesday, July 26, 4-6 p.m. at the Utah State Board of Education Building, Board Room, 250 East 500 South, Salt Lake City.

Background—

To address Utah’s teacher shortage, the Utah State Board of Education passed a rule creating a new teacher license called the Academic Pathway to Teaching (APT). The rule lowers standards by allowing anyone with a Bachelor’s degree who passes a Praxis® subject test to immediately obtain a teaching license.

The following are NOT REQUIRED to become licensed under the new APT rule:

  • Any level of classroom experience;
  • Understanding of classroom management, pedagogy or instructional skills; or
  • Knowledge of the Utah core academic standards for grade or subject area.

There is no requirement that a school district or charter school assess the teacher’s classroom management and pedagogy skills to identify deficiencies or provide training related to specific instructional skills.  The ability to address these deficiencies will vary widely based on the capacity of the district or charter school  as APT teachers learn “on the job” with no additional funding or resources provided by the state.

Further, the Board only requires that a district or charter school assign a master teacher to mentor the APT teacher and “prepare the APT level I license holder to meet the Utah Effective Educator Standards.” By comparison, the Board requires every approved university preparation program to:

  • Prepare candidates to meet the Utah Effective Teaching Standards; and
  • Prepare candidates to teach the Utah core academic standards; and
  • Prepare candidates with specific skills, such as:
    • content-specific pedagogy,
    • knowledge and skills to assist in the identification of students with disabilities and to meet the needs of students with disabilities in the regular classroom,
    • knowledge and skills to meet the needs of diverse students in the regular classroom including skills to design, adapt and deliver instruction to address each student’s diverse learning strengths and needs,
    • ability to incorporate tools of language development into planning and instruction for English language learners and support development of English proficiency; and
  • Require a student teaching experience with a minimum of 400 hours, with direct supervision by a classroom teacher that has been deemed effective by an evaluation and received training on the roles and responsibilities of a classroom mentor teacher for student teachers.

Because this rule was written, debated and passed in just two weeks with little opportunity for public input, the UEA formally requested that the State Board hold a public hearing. The public hearing will provide an opportunity for UEA, as well as teachers, parents and others, to address specific concerns with the license and advocate for best practices that actually support student learning and the recruitment and retention of highly effective educators.

UEA’s Position—

The UEA believes that allowing an underprepared, underqualified teacher to “learn on the job” puts student learning at risk. Lowering preparation and licensure standards for teachers will never result in higher outcomes for students.

Alternate paths to teacher licensure currently exist under the Alternative Route to Licensure and other competency-based authorization rules established by the Board. These rules already provide school districts with flexibility in teacher hiring.

Alternative routes to licensure may be appropriate for some individuals in exceptional circumstances. But, any licensure route (alternative or traditional) must include several components before a candidate becomes the teacher of record and earns a license:

  • Demonstrated knowledge of subject matter;
  • Demonstrated knowledge of pedagogy and instructional skills; and
  • Supervised clinical experience in the classroom

The UEA believes that one role of the State Board of Education is to set clear, consistent, rigorous, professional standards for preparation and licensing of Utah teachers, to ensure that every classroom and every student has a highly effective teacher.

While the Board maintains consistent standards for graduates of university preparation programs they have  abdicated responsibility for establishing similar high standards for teacher candidates who receive an APT level I license. The minimal expectations set by the Board are that the candidate:

  • Complete an application;
  • Have a Bachelor’s degree or higher;
  • Submit postsecondary transcripts to USOE;
  • Receive a passing score on the appropriate PRAXIS subject test;
  • Complete an educator ethics review on the USOE website;
  • Pass a background check; and
  • Pay licensing fees.

The UEA believes it is alarming that the Utah State Board of Education does not have uniform high standards for educator preparation and licensure that are consistently applied to every teacher in every classroom.

Every student deserves a teacher who is ready to teach on day one. Every route to licensure, whether a traditional university program or an alternate route, should ensure that candidates have sufficient skills and training in classroom management, pedagogy, and instruction before they receive a license and enter a classroom.

The UEA believes the APT rule fails to address any fundamental, structural problems creating  Utah’s teacher shortage problem and it is premature to enact solutions, especially solutions potentially detrimental to student learning, until this data is available and the underlying causes are more fully understood.

The Utah Education Policy Center was recently tasked with compiling data on the shortage. The Board should wait until this data is received and analyzed before hastily enacting solutions that may create new problems without addressing root causes.

The UEA believes the APT rule further demoralizes teachers who already feel disrespected.

Allowing anyone without specialized training to become a licensed teacher is a slap in the face to those dedicated educators who spent years obtaining and cultivating pedagogical skills. A recent survey showed lack of respect for the profession as teachers’ top concern.

Request for Board Action—

The UEA is asking the Board to reconsider and repeal this new policy until additional data is available to ensure that all licensed teachers are held to the same, high rigorous standards.

The UEA also calls on the Board to develop a comprehensive strategy to address teacher recruitment, preparation, licensure, induction and mentoring, evaluation, remediation, and ongoing professional learning - the entire professional continuum - to ensure that Utah has a system to develop and increase teacher effectiveness and retention. The development of the strategy should be done in cooperation with stakeholders including district leaders and principals, preparation programs, teacher and principal associations, legislators, and, most importantly, teachers - teachers who have been mentors, pursued alternative licensure, worked on innovative induction programs like PAR, and who are leaders in their school, to work with the Board to create a seamless vision of teacher recruitment and retention in Utah.

Call to Action—

The UEA encourages teachers and anyone interested in maintaining educator standards to contact their State School Board member right away and ask them to reject the new Academic Pathway to Teaching. Share with them how this new rule might impact your classroom or the students in classrooms with APT teachers.

Please also copy your comments to angie.stallings@schools.utah.gov. The public has until 5 p.m. August 1 submit written comments that must be considered as part of the rulemaking process and included in the hearing record. Be sure to reference R277-511 Academic Pathway to Teaching in your comments

• Utah State Board of Education contact information
• Look up your Utah State Board of Education member (vote.utah.gov)

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