Monday, December 3, 2012

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #99– December 3, 2012

Dear Friends,

Despite losing his election mandate, Dr. Bennett is pressing ahead with his controversial plan to change teacher licensing rules, known as REPA 2. He wants his new plan to be approved this Wednesday, December 5th at the regular meeting of the State Board of Education.

The only public hearing on the REPA 2 proposals was held on June 21st. There were 30 speakers that day in the Riley Room, and all 30 spoke against the proposed rules. I was one of the thirty in opposition. Only one State Board was present, Mike Pettibone. Dr. Bennett was not there. After the hearing, the rules were eligible for passage at the next State Board meeting, which was held on August 1st. Instead of bringing it up for a vote then, it was announced that it would be deferred to December. To me, this seemed like an obvious move to take the issue out of the election.

Nevertheless, REPA 2 was a subject of much discussion through the fall campaign. It was the subject of a Select Commission on Education meeting on August 14th, where the clear consensus of public testimony that I participated in was that REPA 2 would lower the standards for teachers in Indiana and was simply unnecessary.

There were some who believed that the election results would send a message that REPA 2 should be shelved, but Dr. Bennett didn’t get the message. The agenda confirming that REPA 2 would be voted on Wednesday was not released until this past Friday afternoon, Nov. 30th, presumably to shorten the time that anyone could mount a protest. The memo released on Friday was dated Nov. 27th, three days earlier, but still not released until Nov. 30th.

Also released was a 25-page summary showing in a matrix format how REPA 2 has been revised since the June hearing. You can get this summary from the IDOE website. Click on State Board of Education, then on the December 5th agenda, then on the “summary” listed under the REPA agenda item. There are many things to object to in this document. My list below is not an exhaustive list of problems, but here are some key concerns:

Revisions in REPA 2 Revealed for the First Time Last Friday, November 30th
1. The revised draft shifts the authority for approving teacher education programs at universities from the Indiana Department of Education, which would be supervised by the State Superintendent, to the State Board of Education. The votes on approving programs would be in the hands of political appointees on the State Board rather than the elected State Superintendent. This changes the current practice of having IDOE approve programs in line with the rules and would seem to set up the need for an independent staff for the State Board to do this work. This represents an obvious power grab to take authority away from Glenda Ritz and put it in the hands of the State Board appointed by the Governor. Such tactics were predicted by some after Dr. Bennett was defeated in the election, and this seems to be the first movement in the tug of war over Glenda Ritz’s authority.

The legal question here is whether the rule can be revised in this major way at the last minute without triggering the need for another round of public hearings. Past practice in my decade of watching State Board rules go through the promulgation process was that if hearings revealed minor changes were needed, those minor changes were made and the rule was passed. If major changes were made, however, the rules were resubmitted for an additional round of hearings. This revision of authority is clearly a major change, and under past practice, a new public hearing on the revised language should be in order. This legal question will throw REPA 2 into the hands of lawyers and lawsuits, which is not good for making public policy which will have the confidence of the public. It seems clear to me that this revision should be subject to additional public hearings.

2. The revised draft cuts the classroom experience required for an administrator license from five years down to two years and would count teaching experience in higher education as classroom experience for qualifying for a K-12 administrative license, either as a building level administrator or as a superintendent. This is a highly controversial subject to current administrators. Reducing the amount of teaching experience required and eliminating the need for experience in K-12 classrooms should be subject to additional public hearings.

3. The revised draft changes the approval of the content area tests required for licensure and the setting of the cut scores for those tests from the Indiana Department of Education to the State Board of Education. As discussed above, this would truncate the authority of Glenda Ritz and would set up a bureaucracy under the State Board of Education. Is this really what the General Assembly intended for the State Board of Education? It has never functioned in this way before. This change would require separate budgetary support for additional staff. Perhaps the new General Assembly will agree and will make that happen in the April budget, but to pass rules now that assume budgetary support seems more than presumptuous . At the very least, a change this big deserves more public hearings.
New Licensing Rules in REPA 2 that were Not Changed in Friday’s Revision But Should Have Been

Several controversial elements of REPA 2 remain unchanged after Friday’s revisions were revealed. These have been problems from the start of this process and remain in the document:
1. A new provision allows the appointment of “Temporary Building Level Administrators” at the request of a local school board. Under great pressure from Governor Daniels, a license for a “Temporary Superintendent” was allowed in rules passed in 2010 (REPA 1). That plan did not go so far as allowing for temporary principals on the same basis, but REPA 2 does go that far. This concept reverses the reforms of the early 20th century when cronyism and nepotism influenced the appointment of administrators in many local communities. The reform then was to have administrative candidates show that they were qualified in the eyes of impartial licensing agents, the university administrator programs. This provision throws the door open again to local cronyism. This is the kind of local control that no one is asking for. This provision cheapens the credentials of all administrators who have worked hard to pass the existing credential requirements and are now told they weren’t really necessary.

2. New content areas can be added with no new coursework but by passing a test, a test now to be supervised as noted above by the State Board of Education and not by the Indiana Department of Education. The revision revealed Friday removed four areas from eligibility for the “test only” addition: Exceptional Needs, Communication Disorders, Early Childhood, and Elementary Education. These removals are a step in the right direction, but all other content areas are still eligible, from Economics to Physical Education, to be added to a license without any coursework but by simply passing a test.

3. Any applicant holding a Bachelor’s Degree who passes a content test and has a 3.0 GPA in the content area in which the applicant intends to teach can get a 5 year teaching permit, called an “Adjunct Teacher Permit.” This permit allows teachers into the classroom who have had no teacher pedagogy courses. While other parts of REPA require 10 weeks of student teaching instead of 9, the “Adjunct Teacher Permit” allows teachers to teach for five years who have had no student teaching. This is a bad idea which negates all that we have learned about preparing teachers in the past century. I spoke against this provision at the Select Commission hearing in August, and I have attached my comments if you were like to read more details about this huge step backward.
What Can You Do About This?

In summary, the REPA 2 rules are a combination of new bad ideas introduced last Friday and old bad ideas that were not supported by any speaker in the June public hearing. How long can Dr. Bennett and the State Board keep moving in directions opposed by the vast majority of Indiana education stakeholders?

Here are your options if you would like to speak up on this issue:
1. Attend Wednesday’s State Board meeting (December 5th, 9am, in the Riley Room of the IDOE, at the corner of Ohio and Capital) and sign up to speak during Public Comments. Anyone who signs in before 9am on the list provided has the right to speak for at least 3 minutes. Sometimes they allow 5 minutes. Say what is on your mind, asking for changes or for a delay to review the major changes. It is important that the State Board members hear from speakers representing many geographic areas of Indiana. Come and speak briefly if you can, remembering that to do so, you must sign in before 9am.

2. Emails or call members of the State Board of Education to express your opposition. This decision is in their hands on Wednesday. They have had many messages already, but more would help.

3. Complain loudly to your State Senators and State Representative about what the State Board is trying to do. They can’t control the State Board on this vote, but when the State Board asks for the budget to pay for additional staff, members of the General Assembly will have been informed by you of the problems in this proposal and the overreach of authority by the State Board.

4. Inform the public through the media where possible. Let the public know that the new direction that voters asked for in the election is being ignored by Dr. Bennett and the State Board and that standards for teachers and principals in Indiana classrooms are being lowered.

5. Start petitions directed at State Board members and members of the General Assembly who oversee education, asking them to table these new changes until additional public hearings are held. Time is short for petitions, but it can be an effective way to express outrage to the decision makers involved.
I oppose passage of REPA 2 as revised last Friday. I am outraged that so little time has been allowed from Friday afternoon to Wednesday’s vote (5 days) to review these major changes, after IDOE took five months to prepare the revisions. I believe the revision is wrong to shift program approval and the setting of cut scores for teacher testing from the IDOE to the State Board in an obvious political power grab.

If you can help resist these changes in any of the ways listed above, please do so.

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“Vic’s Election Notes on Education” is not linked to any organization and is not being distributed by me to any organization. It is only being distributed to those who have previously sent personal requests for my commentaries. If you want to pass it along to others, you do not need to ask my permission. If you want to be taken off the distribution list, just let me know. If you know of others who want to be added to the list, just send me an email.

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998.

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