Indiana teacher licensing changes now official

The sweeping set of teacher licensing changes for Indiana, which I first blogged about here last July, has officially been signed into law. Frankly, I’m surprised, on two levels.

First, although this proposal flew mainly under the radar in Indiana, it was quite polarizing. The public, especially parents of school-aged kids, seemed mainly to be in favor of the bill; while teachers, teacher unions, and university education professors were quite vocally against it. Usually something this divisive doesn’t make it to being signed into law, or else it gets gutted and compromised first. But I can’t find any changes that were made between the bill and the law. It looks like what we saw is what we will get.

Second, it was pretty clear if you scratched the surface of this bill that one of its reasons for being was to put Indiana in a position to get Race to the Top money from the Federal government. Once Indiana was declared out of the running for that money, I figured the bill would get dropped, or else gutted/compromised. But apparently not so.

There will be winners and losers as these changes are implemented. As I said back in July, probably the biggest losers will be the education departments at large universities, which are constructed for the sole purpose of preparing preservice teachers to fulfill the outgoing licensing requirements. Now that the pedagogy coursework requirements for education majors will be drastically reduced, so will the workloads of many of the profs in those departments, and one wonders what happens next. The smaller colleges, like mine, will be fine. Our education faculty are generalists by necessity, and most of our secondary education degrees — which will no longer exist — are just one or two courses shy of a content major anyway. The big winners in this are going to be:

  • People who want to become teachers but lack the time, resources, or willpower to follow the traditional — and highly regimented and lengthy — coursework for an education degree. Many of these are students who come to my college wanting to get a degree in math or science and eventually find their way into teaching, and who walk away disappointed that preparing to become a teacher is an all-or-nothing proposition — you can’t just “pick up a teaching license” in a content area. You either choose to invest dozens of credit hours in education courses or you stay out of teaching. I will be very happy to tell all of my highly talented math and engineering students that as of today, if you want to become a teacher, you can.
  • Indiana college students, who now have more career options open to them. College students who trained to become teachers but who later want to leave the profession for something else will have a content degree to fall back upon. Those with, or who are working on, content degrees won’t have to make the all-or-nothing choice I mentioned above; if they decide later in their degree program to become teachers, they can.
  • Indiana school kids, especially high school kids who are now guaranteed to have teachers who will now be just as proficient in their subject areas as a beginning practitioner of the discipline working in business, industry, or government or going to graduate school. We all realize that content competence (if not mastery) is not a sufficient condition for good teaching; but it is a necessary condition, and far too often that condition is not met. No longer!

This is a big net win for Indiana.


Filed under Early education, Education, High school, Life in academia, Teaching

5 responses to “Indiana teacher licensing changes now official

  1. fcthendrix

    Thanks for this great post. It’s very helpful to see it summarized like this so I can clearly understand the changes. In my position over here in admissions it’s really going to make it easier for me to explain what it means to my students and how it’s going to benefit them. Well done!

  2. I’m not too surprised that the state is still making changes that pertain to the “Race to the Top” program. The whole thing will be revisited in the next year or so, and states will have another chance to vie for the (perhaps unwisely) coveted government money. My dad recently lost his job as an administrator for that very reason.

  3. Yeah, trust the Indiana state legislature to reform what it takes to teach, because as we know, politicians are very knowledgeable on that front.

    Do you drink the Kool-Aid before or after you shoot yourself in the head?

  4. First of all, just a couple minor notes: This wasn’t a “bill.” Bills are introduced in the General Assembly and must go through the legislative process before heading to the governor’s desk. Each of the hurdles (such as the Professional Standards Advisory Board) that these changes had to clear before heading to the governor’s desk were in the executive branch — thus, the Democratic-led Indiana House couldn’t abide by the ISTA’s wishes and spike them.

    And, the new rules actually went through quite significant changes. The biggest change was that initially, Tony Bennett’s proposal would have allowed anyone working in another field to become a teacher by completing a certification exam; under the final draft of the rule changes, you have to have an education minor before becoming a teacher.

    I’ve consistently heard the argument that these changes won’t mean much to smaller education colleges, but I’m not sure I agree. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding, and I’d appreciate it if someone would explain this to me, but it seems like as though in order to say that the changes will just require secondary education students to tack on a couple more content-area courses to get their majors in those fields, you have to assume that those students will want to double-major. However, the new rules only require a minor in education. That would mean adding a couple content-area courses and dropping quite a few education classes. Right?

  5. Eric, thanks for the info regarding the form of this… um, proposal, or whatever it is I should be calling it.ūüôā I also wasn’t aware of the changes you mentioned in your second paragraph; I was still under the impression that ABCTE licenses were still accepted. I will have to look into that.

    To clarify what I meant about the impact to small colleges: I never said that there wouldn’t be major changes to make. I said that small colleges will be fine from a faculty standpoint. By that, I mean that small college education departments don’t have a lot of faculty who are specialists in pedagogy courses — the courses that are going to go away under the new requirements. Our education people teach everything. So if all of a sudden, education majors have to take drastically fewer pedagogy courses, then we won’t have to scale back or repurpose the faculty whose courses now have a fraction of the demand they used to have. In fact this could have a salutary effect on faculty workloads in the education departments for schools like us.

    As for students, the case I know best is our secondary ed – math degree program. This program is two courses away from a straight-up Mathematics major. Those two courses are an Independent Study and a computer science class. So asking students who are in (or intended to be in) the secondary ed – math program to now major in Mathematics is not asking for much — they are already doing 95% of the math coursework. And as you say, the education coursework is dramatically reduced. So this is a big change but one which is effortless to make on the students’ part.