Thursday, January 10, 2013

Education deans, KSDE to meet on teacher prep programs

By PETER HANCOCK, The Lawrence Journal-World

Officials at the Kansas State Department of Education will meet in March with deans from various schools of education to discuss a recent report calling for big changes in the way colleges prepare new teachers for entering the profession.

Scott Myers, KSDE's director of teacher education and licensure, plans to meet with the deans March 14 to discuss the report that came out in December from the National Governor's Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The report, "Our Responsibility, Our Promise: Transforming Educator Preparation and Entry into the Profession," recommends that states adopt several initiatives aimed at requiring more accountability by schools of education for the quality of teachers they graduate, and making standards for teacher licenses more uniform across the country.

In general, the governors and state education chiefs said that as curriculum standards for students are being raised to put more focus on college and career readiness, the requirements for getting an education degree and teaching license should also include stronger requirements.

In other words, math teachers should take more math; science teachers should take more science. And the courses they take should focus on the kind of content they would be expected to teach in K-12 schools after they graduate.

In addition, they suggested that licensing standards be made more uniform across the country so teachers can more easily move from one state to another without having to incur costs for additional courses or jump through massive bureaucratic hoops. That's a particular hardship for the spouses of military personnel, the report noted, as well as spouses of anyone else whose career requires relocation.

The authors also said that as teachers are increasingly being held accountable for the academic growth of their students, schools of education should be held accountable for the quality of teachers they produce.

Specifically, they said states need to exercise their authority to determine which programs should operate and recommend candidates for licensure in the state, and act to close programs that continually receive the lowest rating.

Rick Ginsburg, dean of the School of Education at Kansas University, said most of the recommendations in the report are things that are already being done in Kansas.

But the item most likely to cause consternation, education officials say, is the idea of universal reciprocity — that Kansas should recognize a teaching license issued by any other state. Kansas currently does allow licensing of out-of-state teachers, as long as they graduated from an accredited college or university training program and meet certain other requirements.

But it does not, as some states like Texas do, grant licenses to people trained through alternative programs like Teach for America, unless the program formally affiliates with an accredited college or university.

When the report was released Dec. 17, Kansas was listed as one of 25 states that had "committed to advance recommendations contained in the report." That may have been a slight overstatement. The Kansas State Board of Education was briefed on an executive summary of the report during its monthly meeting Dec. 11, nearly a week before the full report was released.

The board took no formal vote on the report, mainly because the full report hadn't been released, but there was general agreement to use the report as a "framework," if and when the board decides to amend regulations on teacher licensing and accreditation of teacher preparation programs.

KSDE spokeswoman Kathy Toelkes said the March 14 meeting with the education deans is only to discuss the report and share ideas.

She said it is not necessarily a preparation for bringing any particular proposals to the State Board of Education.