Candidates for state school board on the issues: teacher licensure and preparation

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Last week we sent five questions to candidates for Kansas State Board of Education District 2 which covers a large part of Johnson County. The set of questions came from those submitted by readers.

Here are the responses from incumbent Republican Steve Roberts and Democrat challenger Chris Cindric to our third question. Today’s question is:

How do you feel about current teacher licensure and preparation requirements and programs for K-12 education?

Chris Cindric

Chris Cindric
Chris Cindric

I continue to be a consistent proponent of strong licensure for teachers.  I will work to keep qualified professionals in all classrooms.  Teaching requires much more than content area mastery and to expect that someone, without adequate preparation, can successfully navigate classroom demands, both minimizes and marginalizes the profession  and does a disservice to students. To be an effective educator in 2016 one must have: content/curriculum mastery, understanding of teaching principles, knowledge of: curriculum differentiation, classroom management, behavior interventions, conferencing with parents, cultural diversity/English Language Learner needs, test data and interpretation, Special Education requirements, and accommodations and modifications, (to name a few.)  We all want and expect to have qualified, well-prepared educators working with our children.

Kansas lost approximately 3,000 teachers in 2015.  A report released in July, 2016, by a task force of academics and educators, created by the state, found rural and urban school districts are struggling to fill positions, particularly in secondary math and science. While I appreciate the skills STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professionals bring to schools, these programs offer generic teaching tips as opposed to specific instruction regarding student learning and needs.  I support the professionalism of the program UKanTeach (at the University of Kansas) because it is completed in conjunction with a STEM discipline and is “an intense, hands-on coaching model engaging students from initial recruitment, induction support, with in-service professional development and ongoing support throughout their career.”  In my own training I had not only quality education coursework, but exceptional internship experiences and supervisors to prepare me to be a School Psychologist.   Hiring unlicensed, unprepared educators is a short-term solution to a problem that will take years to remedy.

Steve Roberts

Steve Roberts
Steve Roberts

Kansans need competent, licensed professionals in every classroom, for every child. We should place our better teachers into our more challenging situations.
If hospitals and medical clinics functioned like our school system, our sicker and more seriously injured patients would receive care from less experienced or novice nurses. Hardscrabble schools usually have many terrific and awesome teachers; but they are too few to do the job that needs to be done. Too often those who struggle with modern life – paying the bills – send their children to schools with our weakest and least knowledgeable teachers. This is backward. Hence, America puts more people behind bars per capita than any other country, save for the possible exceptions of North Korea and Seychelles. We continue to leave children behind.

We added the STEM license in 2014 with the support and vote of the state board; we now have 13 different licenses for teachers and 14 pathways with only one that does not require education coursework. Not one license for math, mind you, or one license for English, one for social studies, or one for art, or music. No. Those are merely endorsements on these: initial license, professional license, accomplished license, substitute teaching license, emergency substitute license, restricted teaching license, visiting scholar license, foreign exchange license, restricted school specialist license, transitional license, provisional teaching endorsement license, provisional school specialist endorsement license, and STEM license. Multiply the list by two, for primary and secondary, and we have more than 20 teaching licenses. STEM licensure is for secondary coursework only, as are nearly all the visiting scholars we have approved with votes on the state board.

We had even more licenses when I began my service on the state board. We are making progress. But changing the culture of runaway regulation is no easy feat.

“Better Schools, Fewer Rules” was our bumper-sticker slogan in 2012, and it remains to this day.

We must have licensed professionals in every classroom, for every child. State department efforts to keep good people out of the classroom must end. It cannot continue to be a closed shop with only graduates of colleges of education hired to teach woodworking, auto shop, welding and a hundred other secondary courses, including trigonometry and calculus. Public education must embrace non-traditional pathways to the classroom for career and technical courses.