Big changes coming for Indiana teacher licensing?

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett is announcing today a plan to overhaul the state’s system for teacher licensure. The announcement is here, and there are three PDF’s linked at the bottom of that page that go into more depth. [Update: There’s now a 7-minute video of the press conference at this site as well.] And here’s an Indianapolis Star article (written prior to the announcement, so it’s a bit short on detail) that gives a thumbnail overview and some reactions from local education people. Those reactions seem pretty heated, and when you read the details of the program, you can begin to understand why.

The first point listed in the plan, and the one that seems to have the most impact, is that requirements for content knowledge for pre-service teachers are going to be ratcheted up several notches. Secondary education teachers will now be required to earn a baccalaureate degree in a content areanot in education — and earn a minor in education. Elementary education majors may do this as well, or earn a baccalaureate degree in education with a minor in a content area. Those aspiring to change careers into teaching do not have to get any formal coursework in education at all, but rather be certified by the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, which involves holding a baccalaureate degree (in any subject) and then passing a teaching exam and attending teaching workshops. In addition, the very definition of a “major” or “minor” in education will be changed: A degree in education can have no more than 30 hours in pedagogy, and a minor can have no more than 15. This new system, along with the other changes in the plan I didn’t just mention, would be put into place on July 1, 2010.

In a word: Whoa. These are some  monumental changes to the way things are currently done here in Indiana. And that’s not all. There is more to the proposal than what I mentioned above — in particular, a big change is that the PRAXIS I exam will no longer be required, and there’s an end to a portfolio and mentoring requirement that I know firsthand new teachers hate — but let me give some quick thoughts about the changes I did mention, which affect directly those of us involved with training new teachers.

  • The change in degree requirement for secondary education teachers is huge. Consider the Mathematics Teaching major at my college. As it is, students in this program take 24 hours of “professional secondary education” courses (including methods courses, instructional strategies, etc.) along with several semesters of field experiences plus internships in education. Most, if not all, of the courses in the “professional” category would probably be considered “pedagogy” courses under this new system (although there’s no clear definition of that term). Under the new system, all of that would be replaced with an education minor that consists of no more than 15 hours of pedagogy courses. This is effectively cutting the “professional secondary education” courseload for these students by half or more.
  • Like I said, this is huge — for both students and faculty. Students wanting to be secondary educators are now going to have much more flexible schedules and greater choice. And if, previously, a secondary education content major was heavy on the education and light on the content area, the whole world will be changing for students in that major. For us, our Math Education degree is just one course away (an independent research project) from a Mathematics degree; students in Math Education usually just double-major, so this change is not going to affect us much. But it could completely change the landscape for other programs where the math (or science or whatever) education major is something like half of the associated content area major plus a bunch of education courses.
  • It’s also huge for faculty. Now you can see why some of the teacher education people might be very concerned. Their pedagogy courses are going to be depopulated. And the effect will be far worse at larger schools, where education professors tend to specialize more and you might have some profs whose entire course load, year in and year out, consists of pedagogy courses — courses that are now being taken by only a fraction of the former number of people. If universities were like industry, we’d simply lay off, reassign, or let go the profs whose services are no longer needed. But what if such a prof has tenure? Things get complicated.
  • I think the change to allow ABCTE certification is brilliant. I have talked to dozens of students and their parents who are thinking about going into teaching, but they aren’t sure, so they want to major in a content area and then “go back and get a teaching certificate later” if they felt the call. It is painful to have to explain that, in Indiana, you can’t just “go back and get a teaching certificate”. Well, now you can. (Assuming this all passes.) This is an excellent way especially to get more teachers in math and science. I know a lot of scientists and engineers who have wanted to get out of industry and into teaching, but the amount of coursework required was a real hindrance. Now there is an alternate route.
  • The speed of the timeline is shocking. If this goes through, this upcoming academic year will be the last one in which the traditional secondary education majors exist. That’s got to be a major jolt to the system for many colleges, especially the education departments. But it becomes less shocking when you read the “Licensing Summary” PDF and see that the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, and the tons of money contained therein for states with “streamlined” licensing processes, is listed there. They want to get this deal done quickly so they can be better positioned for money from this program.

A telling statement from Pat Rogan, executive associate dean of the education school at IUPUI, was in the Indy Star article: that the proposed limits of 30 credit hours of pedagogy in education courses for education majors and 15 for education minors would “put educators without essential teaching skills into classrooms”. Seriously? It takes more than 30 credit hours — the equivalent of an entire academic year of coursework if the student took nothing but pedagogy courses, 15 hours a week solid for nine months — to convey “essential teaching skills”? Somebody needs to send a memo back to the great one-room schoolhouse teachers from 100 years ago, and all the successful homeschooling parents today, letting them know that they are badly lacking in their preparation and need more pedagogy courses. Perhaps the gist of this entire plan is to say to education schools: Align your conception of what constitutes “essential teaching skills” with reality, and then redesign your programs to match.



Filed under Education, High school, Higher ed, Life in academia, Teaching

22 responses to “Big changes coming for Indiana teacher licensing?

  1. I support the idea of requiring secondary teachers to have a subject matter degree. Texas did this a few years ago but the requirement was subverted. Universities created easier math classes for prospective teachers to take. Eventually Texas repealed the requirement. I hope Indiana is more successful than Texas was.

  2. Jami

    Hmmm… I am now completely confused on what to do!! I had intended to apply for two different transition to teaching programs this fall, but now I wonder if those will be changing. Do these changes mean that those types of programs will become obsolete? Or will they just be changed?
    I have started getting materials together to apply for the Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellowship, and just in case that doesn’t work out, I am taking two classes this academic year to clear up some content requirements so that I can apply for an MAT (master of arts in teaching) program at UIndy next year. Both of these programs would begin after July 2010.
    I’ll probably keep going with my plan, but it really makes me wonder if this whole process will completely change. I was pretty excited about earning a master’s degree, but I wonder how this will change a master’s degree in education. And if I can get into teaching any sooner I will definitely take that option!

    You’re right on the career changing to teaching! For years I’ve been wanting to change, but I just havent had the opportunity. Its the student teaching that kills the career changers. I’ve been saving for a year so that I can take 6 months off of work to student teach. I wonder what the new certification process will look like…

    If you come across any other info on this I’d love to stay informed!!

  3. When I saw your earlier tweets, I was prepared to read about some mind-blowing Bizarro-world teacher training program, but I have to say, this looks awfully similar to my undergraduate program in New Jersey.

    My major was officially English (Teaching – Secondary Ed) – you could also be straight English, or Journalism – and my BA is in English. My college did not offer a minor in secondary education, but in order to graduate with the standard probationary teaching cert I was required to take certain courses, both in the Education program and other areas (psychology, reading, etc.). A quick look at my undergrad transcript shows that I took 15 credits in the Secondary Ed category, plus another 10 for student teaching. Meanwhile, I earned 45 major credits (including two ed-based classes that were “officially” English dept courses, Methods of Teaching HS English and Teaching Writing, so I guess there’s some overlap).

    While I do have my complaints about my experience, it’s a fairly well-respected teacher training program, at least in NJ. so maybe there’s something to the model.

    I’m curious – why do new teachers hate the mentoring program in Indiana? I’m talking off the top of my head here, but I’m pretty sure lack of mentoring/support is an oft-cited reason for high teacher attrition rates. Is it the out-of-pocket cost of paying the mentor, or maybe the added level of bureaucracy to add pressure to an already stressful experience?

  4. Will Farris

    I was a very success physics teacher (based on student, parent, and admin feedback) for 4 years without ever having an education course. The ed establishment is a machine – the schools of ed, the NEA, and state boards – all incestuous and interested primarily in power and not the students ultimately although ostensibly they say the are. Right! Just look at the teacher pension funds that get invested in casinos and many other seedy operations that make money for the interlocutors first, teachers, second. This kind of dynasty must fall for education to progress, and why shouldn’t Ed profs not taste the layoff pill? It is time for reality to open the door and let in some light.

    I cannot go through 10 weeks of unpaid internship/mentoring slave labor already having 4 years experience in a superior private school environment, plus 15 thousand dollars of grad courses in a 5th year non-trad masters program.

    Way to go, Tony Bennett!

  5. @Jami: In this FAQ (PDF) that’s given on the website, it says some things about Transition to Teaching and how it’s going to work under the new proposed system. I confess I don’t really understand how TTT works right now, so the changes are over my head, but maybe you can take a look at it.

    @Damian: I should be clearer about the portfolio and mentoring. Most everybody I know of hates the portfolio. The mentoring has mixed reviews. For some, it’s great and much needed. For others, maybe for those situations where the mentor teacher doesn’t really put the effort into it, it’s frustrating and time-wasting. In either case, apparently there’s been no statistically significant change in the quality of education for students since this program was put into place.

  6. I had a meeting with our teaching center director this afternoon and mentioned this, since GT has a lot of things going on to help figure out how to get our graduates certified as teachers without education degrees. Turns out Georgia moved in this direction (easing the movement to certification from other careers, requiring content majors and not education majors, etc.) a few years ago. The sky certainly has not fallen here. The schools seem quite happy with the teachers they’re getting, although there certainly aren’t enough of them in the STEM disciplines. (Amusingly, GT history majors are being used to solve Georgia’s physics teacher shortage. Because of Institute requirements, those with a history degree still have enough math and lab science courses to just need a few science courses to get certified.) Seems like a lot of this brouhaha could have been avoided if the education deans had been consulted, even if they were overruled.

  7. My degree was English Education. The difference in the number of English classes I had to take versus an English major was 2. I took 2 fewer English classes. What my program did was trim the fat off the core curriculum (2 lab sciences versus 4; 2 foreign language versus 3 or 4, I forget which; etc.). I don’t feel less prepared to teach my subject because I have 2 fewer English courses, but I do think I’d have been less prepared if I had instead been required to take fewer pedagogy courses. I went through a pretty good English Education program, however, and others’ mileage may vary. Does that minor include the student teaching? I know a lot of folks like to bash education courses, but mine were pretty good and for the most part a valuable part of my education.

    • “Does that minor include the student teaching?”

      That was my big question when I was first reading the report, but I never could figure out what the answer was. I’d hate to see student teaching trimmed down, but on the other hand you can’t let a minor balloon up to 25-30 credit hours.

  8. Cathy

    Well, to me it sounds like an excellent idea to get mathematics and science teachers with more content knowledge. However, there is one (somewhat ironic) pitfall – requiring future math teachers to have a full major in mathematics, or something very close to that, will also make them more desirable to industry. Unless the rates of pay for teachers are competitive, you could find that in 5-10 years time you are losing many of these new teachers to other jobs.

    • I would say that people who are really weighing going into teaching in the STEM fields versus using their content-area degrees in science and industry don’t put as big of an emphasis on the pay differential as we think. These kinds of folks are usually well aware of that differential, but the choice is about more than money. They’re thinking that teaching offers a career that can make a positive difference in the world, versus a Dilbert-like existence in the private sector, and so that sense of purpose often makes up for the lack of money. But there’s where schools will also have to compete — they can’t just offer better salaries, they also have to offer a safe, meaningful, positive work environment. Very many schools cannot do so right now.

      • This is a really good point, based on my experiences at Tech. We’ve got students with degrees in electrical engineering going out to teach physics because they’ve done a co-op or internship and realize they don’t want the money to sit in a cube farm where they won’t make a difference. Programs to help students like this transition to teaching (and not TfA short-term teaching) without needing them to switch majors into education are crucial for this. Fortunately, some are getting NSF support, but it’s hard when you have engineering professors turned Vice Provosts who think that it’s not a good idea.

  9. Robert, comparing the pedagogical skills needed to homeschool with those required to teach a half a dozen sections of 20-30 kids who aren’t your own may be one of the more specious ideas I’ve seen in the debate about licensing teachers.

    I realize that there are bad education courses. Then again, there are bad mathematics courses that add little or nothing to what the vast majority of high school teachers (not to mention middle school teachers) will be doing in their teaching careers.

    Those who tend to argue most vociferously for “more content, less pedagogy” don’t exactly have innovative visions of what to do with those increased content hours. They’re not talking about designing mathematics classes that are specifically geared to be relevant for those who teach secondary mathematics. It’s just more snobbery on the part of the upper end of the mathematics community, not all that different in some ways from making calculus a prerequisite for medical school (as if you know any doctors who recall or ever use calculus once they pass the classes).

    If mathematics departments were going to do some hard thinking about how to make the best use of those hours for future secondary mathematics teachers and actually design classes that made sense, I’d be all for it. Some isolated departments may very well do so. Certainly departments that pride themselves on excellent mathematical pedagogy (e.g., Williams College in Massachusetts) will be thinking that way (should Massachusetts go in the same direction). Most large departments at Tier 1 research universities will not. There will be no motivation for them to do so (unless they have some influential members who actually care about the quality of instruction and what sorts of things future secondary mathematics teachers should be doing to make them effective classroom instructors).

    Hyman Bass, a world-renowned algebraist, and Deborah Lowenberg Ball, Dean of the University of Michigan School of Education and former elementary mathematics teacher, have been working for the past decade on the question of what mathematics teachers need to know to be effective in K-5 and 6-12. That work would be rather crucial to look at before hurtling into the kind of tough-sounding rules that Indiana has adopted. But I would bet a year’s salary that no one involved in making that call did look at their work. This is all about politics, not in the least about effective education. And the kids will suffer.

    • Jami

      I have to disagree…
      The best classes I took and the best teachers I had in my life have not had anything to do with the content of the course. Sure I took some interesting classes and learned some interesting facts, etc, but the classes that I really appreciate are the ones that taught me how to learn.
      I took a Comparitive International Government class in high school and received a 4 on my AP exam. But I dont remember a damn thing about the facts in that course. What I do remember, and what changed my future academic career is how to write an essay. And to this day I still use that teacher’s method to write an essay. It blows my mind that I took English classes for years before this, but I never really learned how to write an essay. And that was because no other teacher really challenged me. Same thing with math problem solving… I took years of Math with teachers telling me to memorize formulas and plug and chug. It took one class in college (MOPS!) to teach me that math is about problem solving. Its not about numbers, its not about calculus… its about logic and solving a problem. And everyone uses that every day. And the more math classes you take, the more that is burned into your brain.

      I guess my point is this… I love the idea of teachers being required to get content degrees. This means that they will have to take more of the more challenging classes in their field. And even though they may not use the actual material in their high school classroom, they will use the skills that are learned. I was a math major, and I’ve never sat down and simplified a matrix, or solved an integral, or hell, even found a LCD. But saying that calculus shouldn’t be required for medical school is just ignorant. If my doctor couldn’t pass calculus in college I’d stop seeing him.

      Here’s a good example… Lots of colleges have foreign language requirements. Why? Its not like an entry level Spanish class is going to make me be bi-lingual. No, its because of the skills that you learn in that class. You learn how other languages work and it just makes you a more well-rounded educated person, and it makes you understand why English is the way it is.

      I just get so sick of people bashing math. It such an essential part of our lives and it is way under-appreciated!!! I dont know if any of this really makes sense… I’m just annoyed.

    • “Robert, comparing the pedagogical skills needed to homeschool with those required to teach a half a dozen sections of 20-30 kids who aren’t your own may be one of the more specious ideas I’ve seen in the debate about licensing teachers.”

      I am not comparing pedagogical skills needed for these two very different settings. What I am calling attention to is the truly specious idea that one has to have in excess of 30 credit hours of pedagogy courses in order to have “essential teaching skills”. There may be some divergence in the pedagogical skill needed to homeschool versus teaching large public school classes, but surely it can’t be that vast if we’re talking “essential” skills.

  10. I received a traditional math degree and got educational certification later, so I can’t be too down on the plan, but —

    Pragmatically, I don’t think the numbers are there. Certainly there aren’t enough traditional math majors that want to teach; and many of the career switchers will not last that long.

    I can nearly guarantee either there will be backpedalling (see Texas above) or people rerouted from other areas (see Georgia above; somehow I don’t think the intent of the licensing chance is to coax history majors into taking a few extra classes!)

    Unless the rates of pay for teachers are competitive, you could find that in 5-10 years time you are losing many of these new teachers to other jobs.

    One of my professors tried to coax me towards actuary school. My salary would be 4x what I make now … it’s still tempting, really.

  11. @Jason Dyer: Georgia has a horrible shortage of physics teachers. The governor likes to run around complaining about the fact that in one recent year all of the institutions in the state turned out a whopping FOUR physics teachers. I’d say getting qualified Georgia Tech graduates (I wouldn’t do this with a history major at most other in institutions) into the classroom teaching is appropriately filling a need. In fact, the “history major” here is properly called History of Technology and Society, so there’s likely content in their history curriculum that’s relevant to teaching high school science.

    • Sure, you gotta do what you gotta do.

      Special ed is where the real hair pulling is, since technically special ed math teachers are supposed to be fully certified in both.

  12. Pingback: What are “essential teaching skills”? « Casting Out Nines

  13. Jami: Next time you go to your doctor, be sure to administer that calculus test to ascertain that s/he didn’t sneak into medical school through some back-door channel. If s/he does well, I’m sure the quality of care you get will be MUCH better than it would have been from someone who hadn’t taken calculus. Because, after all, there’s a huge set of conceptual and practical connections between medical practice and differentiating, integrating, finding limits, etc.

    Or, maybe you could try re-reading my post: it wasn’t an attack on mathematics, that’s for sure. I’m hard-pressed to figure out what post you read in order to deduce I was “attacking” math. Similarly, I’m afraid Robert also didn’t read my post very carefully. He seems to believe I’m arguing for 30 hours of pedagogy. I certainly didn’t say a word towards that end. What I said and continue to say: mathematics course work for teachers is about more than content, and WHAT content really matters as well. For all my attempts to raise those issues, Robert, you danced right around them. Have you read any of the papers Bass & Ball have written over the past decade, for example? That might be a place to start if you’re serious about weighing in critically on the issue of course work for math teachers.

    No one in his right mind argues for teachers at any level being mathematically incompetent or ignorant AT THE APPROPRIATE LEVEL. But what is that level? What is essential for teachers in a given grade band to know? Do you know? Have you given that any serious consideration? Or do you and others here simply kow-tow to the empty-headed notion that more content courses of just about ANY type in mathematics will improve the quality of mathematics instruction in K-12 classrooms (which is, after all, what this issue is about, NOT the quality of college mathematics teaching, a separate though not utterly unrelated concern).

    I frankly don’t get the sense that most of the folks posting here have Clue One about what matters. It’s not obvious, that is for sure. So just shooting from the hip calling for “More math, less pedagogy” is, frankly, dumb as dirt. What, exactly, needs to be put in the place of the education classes you consider to be worthless or overvalued?

    I have never believed that Schools of Education as currently construed at large universities do a great job of teacher prep for K-12. Eastern Michigan University reputedly does a much better job than its giant neighbor here in Ann Arbor. It’s likely true. I’m pretty sure that’s not because they require more math content than does U of M, however. And I doubt, too, that EMU is doing an ideal job either. But what exactly should be done isn’t going to come out of any state legislature.

    Dismissing education classes without a meaningful alternative is just a cheap shot. Makes everyone who hates progressively-oriented, liberal places like Cal-Berkeley and University of Michigan happy. But doesn’t make an ounce of positive difference out there in real classrooms. However, it’s so pretty to think otherwise.

    • Michael, I am not dancing around anything, and I read your post just fine. In my reply to that post, I am clarifying the part of my original comment to which you were referring (re: homeschooling parents and essential teaching skills) and not commenting on anything else. Not commenting on something is not the same as “dancing around an issue”. Just like I am not commenting on the rest of your recent comment, not for now anyway. Are we clear on this?

  14. Jami

    Michael: It appears that neither of us read each others’ posts. Because we both went off on tangents and attacks that don’t have much relevance to what’s really going on (your second post anyways). Or maybe neither of us understood each others’ points. Oh well… I think your discussion is valid, I was just angry at the doctor/calculus thing and rambled about that. I’ll admit to it. But I wont take it back. 🙂

  15. But now I would actually like to address some of Michael’s comments.

    1. “there’s a huge set of conceptual and practical connections between medical practice and differentiating, integrating, finding limits, etc.” — Michael is being sarcastic, obviously, and he’s partly right: unless someone is going into biomedical engineering (not exactly being a doctor, but similar) or doing really heavy-duty medical research, it’s not certain or even likely that that person will use calculus as a doctor. So Michael may be right about the practical connections. But the conceptual connections are real and significant. I’ve been teaching calculus at the university level for 15 years and by far the biggest and most permanent takeaways that students get from the class are not differentiation or integration, but problem-solving, persistence, creativity, detail-orientation, collaborative skills, and critical thinking. A well-designed and -taught calculus course teaches these skills. And these are of demonstrable value to any doctor.

    Even the Association of American Medical Colleges says so, when they say: “[A]dmission committee members know that medical students can develop the essential skills of acquiring, synthesizing, applying and communicating information through a wide variety of academic disciplines.” In other words, they recognize that practical knowledge of biology and medicine can be picked up during medical school as long as a person has a thorough grounding in high-level cognitive skills. The practical skills in medicine come later. The conceptual skills come first. (If Michael wants to argue that that wasn’t what he meant by “conceptual skills” then that’s fine.)

    Notice I am not saying that calculus is the only path towards these skills or that the elite med schools or pre-med programs require calculus because they believe calculus inculcates those skills. In fact I don’t have a clear idea as to their reasoning, nor do I believe that calculus is essential for doctors. But since I don’t have a clear idea I will assume neither snobbery nor conscientiousness on the part of the schools.

    2. “No one in his right mind argues for teachers at any level being mathematically incompetent or ignorant AT THE APPROPRIATE LEVEL. But what is that level?” That is a question of considerable complexity, and the answer will not consist of a simple laundry list of courses. You tried to make what I think is a correct point in your first comment, Michael, that if professors in the math department are mindful about connecting the math material to the needs and interests of preservice educators, then EVERY math course will be appropriate. if they don’t, then none of them will. That’s one reason why I think small colleges will benefit from this proposed change. We have a history of being de facto education departments anyway (at my place, usually around 50% of the majors in our department are education majors) and so we’re practiced at making advanced math courses work for education majors. Secondary ed majors at big universities might not be so fortunate.

    3. “…Have you given that any serious consideration? Or do you and others here simply kow-tow to the empty-headed notion…” Michael, I work at a small liberal arts college where education majors are roughly 25-33% of the student body at any given time and 50% of the majors in my department. I give this concept serious consideration every single day. I have a 5-year old starting kindergarten in two weeks and I am deeply anxious to learn about her teacher’s attitude toward and background in mathematics. You can rest assured that I am not kowtowing to anything or anybody, and I feel pretty optimistic about your fellow commenters here. If you feel people are clueless, then by all means clue us in.

    What I tell my education majors regarding why they have to take so much math is this. You are not a vending machine. You are not merely to have a thorough knowledge of ONLY the material you are going to teach. Your students do not just put money into you and get content knowledge out. When you are a teacher, you not only TEACH the subject, you ARE the subject. To be a truly effective teacher of a subject you have to enjoy and thoroughly study that subject and be hungry to learn more. If you study in college only that material that has a “practical” connection to your classroom teaching then you will be only at the level of your best student. Instead, you have to be in a position where you could take a student’s question and push it forward all the way to the frontiers of our knowledge about mathematics if necessary, and push it back all the way to Aristotelean logic to explain the answer if necessary. More practically, who knows what you’ll be asked to teach in the future? Twenty years ago, math teachers probably groused about having to take discrete mathematics in their college coursework because they’d never be asked to teach it; but now discrete math is taking the K-12 world by storm. We cannot predict the future. So you just need to be prepared. And finally: Don’t you really worry about math teachers who don’t want to study math?