Friday, May 23, 2014

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #179 – May 21, 2014

[NOTE: You can contact State Board of Education Members by clicking on this link:]

Dear Friends,

On May 14th, the State Board of Education in a close 6-5 vote made a fundamental error in lowering the standards teachers for a teaching license in Indiana. Indiana doesn’t need lower standards for teachers.

By the Board’s close vote, the concept is still alive in the REPA 3 package of licensing rules to allow graduates with no teacher training or student teaching to get a two-year renewable license to teach secondary students in Indiana.

After noting the discussion points below, I urge all advocates for strong public schools to contact their State Board member and all State Board members to register your surprise that the idea of giving a teaching license to untrained teachers is still alive in REPA 3. We need to maintain our current standards for teachers and not to lower them.

Proposed by Dr. Bennett in 2012, the pathway to a teacher license without first studying how to teach is still alive.

REPA 3 Discussion at the May 14th Meeting

Jill Shedd of the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana and Keith Gambill of the ISTA started the meeting with public comments opposing the Adjunct Teaching license. Both articulately explained that Emergency Licenses, Advanced Degree Licenses and Transition-to-Teaching Licenses provide all the flexibility and alternative licensing pathways that administrators or future teachers need.

After considerable discussion which included changing the name from “Adjunct Teacher” to “Career Specialist”, Superintendent Ritz moved to strike consideration in REPA 3 of the Adjunct Teacher license which could provide a renewable license to graduates who have had no teacher training or student teaching. After a lengthy debate and a roll call vote, the motion to strike failed 5-6.

Proponents: Six Votes For the Adjunct License Proposal

Of the six votes for retaining the Adjunct license concept, three were appointed by Gov. Daniels: Dan Elsener, B.J. Watts and Tony Walker. Three were appointed by Gov. Pence: David Freitas, Andrea Neal and Gordon Hendry.

Proponents glamorized this proposal as a new pathway for teachers. Dan Elsener said we should “respect superintendents.” He said, as quoted in Eric Weddle’s story in the Indianapolis Star (May 15, 2014, pA10), “I like opening up the field. I think it is opening another option, and no one has to do this. The quality and type of training in a professional growth program is a local option. If they find a new and better mousetrap to develop a teacher, I like that innovation.”

I imagine the teacher training programs of Indiana really love to be compared to “mousetraps.” He also seems unaware that funding for local professional development programs is a huge problem since the state zeroed out its professional development budget four years ago.

Andrea Neal pointedly demanded to see the research that teacher training programs did a better job in prepping teachers than on-the-job mentorships.

I imagine that same question was asked by naysayers in 1918 when my first alma mater became Ball State Teacher’s College.

Have the 100 years of experience in training teachers in Indiana been worthless? Some want our citizens to think so. I certainly disagree.

Brad Oliver, in response, asked Andrea Neal for the research that a simple mentorship program would be as effective as a teacher training program. Later Board Member Neal cited a study that she said favored mentoring, not indicating whether the study was about mentoring that was completed before the first class was taught, which is the point of this controversy.

Opponents: Five Votes Against the Adjunct License Proposal

Of the five votes to strike the Adjunct license concept, two were appointed by Gov. Daniels: Cari Whicker and Sarah O’Brien. Two were appointed by Gov. Pence: Brad Oliver and Troy Albert. The latter two are the only members of the board with significant public school experience in hiring secondary teachers. The fifth vote was by Superintendent Ritz.

Brad Oliver led off the discussion expressing his opposition. He said as a former member of the Professional Standards Board, he could not support the Adjunct concept. The Star quoted him as well: “We are the last gateway to make sure that anybody that is in front of a child has had at least modern similarity of standards. I am not saying they have to go through a full program to get into the classroom… but how do we ensure quality and what are the quality controls that people in front of our students are well prepared?”

He said if there were no current “flexibility”, he might support this step, but he cited the three current pathways to alternative licensing as sufficient. He called the Adjunct proposal an “unregulated alternative pathway to what we already have,” one in which principals would make the decision about allowing an untrained teacher to get an initial license.

Later he cited the General Assembly’s work to make teacher education programs more accountable by tracking the outcomes of their graduates. He said that trend doesn’t square with this move to let untrained teachers get a license.

He has accurately described the huge disconnect between closer regulation of teacher preparation by the General Assembly led by Senator Banks and deregulation of teacher preparation via this move by the State Board.

Troy Albert emphatically said that the Adjunct proposal is “repetitive in my opinion. Going further would be a mistake.” He said that already every person who wants to teach can get in through one of the existing pathways.

Cari Whicker emphasized the importance of student teaching and said teachers should have some pedagogy training before teaching.


What is new in the flawed proposal to lower standards is that a two-year license would be issued to teachers prior to any pedagogical training and to any student teaching. Every experienced teacher knows that the most important hour of any class they are teaching is the first hour when rules and expectations of the class are made clear. The tone and standards of the class are set. A new teacher has to be ready for Day One or the productivity of the class may be damaged for the enter semester. This proposal overlooks that crucial point.

It also overlooks the way principals rely on the track record from student teaching and from teacher training to hire the best teachers. Members of the State Board who favored this flawed proposal spoke glowingly of the freedom principals will have to select new talent for their school. As a former principal, I can tell you that principals are too busy to independently investigate the abilities of teaching candidates who do not have any record of teacher training. Selecting such a person would be an inappropriate gamble. We should not experiment with the education of Hoosier students. We should continue to require all who stand before a classroom on the first day of school to be trained and ready to teach.

Finally, the State Board’s proposal sends a disrespectful message to all currently licensed secondary teachers, telling them that this board thinks that they didn’t really need to study teaching and pedagogy to be successful teachers and that learning about child development, curriculum, assessment, differentiated instruction and cultural differences can easily be learned on the job as the school days roll on.

Current college students may fall into the trap of thinking that they can easily be successful teachers without a serious study of how to teach. We need new teachers who have made a commitment. This experiment with our students ignores over 100 years of experience with teacher training in Indiana at our institutions of higher learning, experience which tells us that the best teachers are well-trained teachers who are ready from Day One.

What You Can Do

It is heartening to think that in 2012 there were only two votes against the Adjunct Teacher proposal and now there are five. One more vote is needed when the final language comes back to the State Board for approval in June or July.

There seems to be no pattern in the voting based on instructions from Governor Pence. The Pence appointees voted 3-2 against striking the Adjunct concept, and the Daniels appointees also voted 3-2 against. This suggests that every member is voting based on personal experience and may be persuaded by advocacy before the next vote.

It is notable that all five of the opponents are veteran teachers or school administrators, while of the six proponents of the Adjunct concept, three have no K-12 teaching experience.

I urge you to contact State Board members on this issue. Let them know that you think the alternative pathways we now have are flexible and sufficient and that we should never allow a teacher to get a license and teach students without any pedagogical training or any student teaching. That is simply not right.

Your messages on behalf of public education make a big difference. Thanks for participating! Please keep up your steadfast support of public schools!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. The 2014 session of the General Assembly is now over. Joel Hand did an excellent job representing ICPE throughout the session. We need your membership to help pay the bills for ICPE lobbying efforts. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew by going to our website.

We have raised the needed money in past sessions, and we must do so again. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!

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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