Published on -6/13/2014, 9:56 AM
I read with great interest the editorial by Patrick Lowry titled "Fake teachers." I have served as licensure officer for Fort Hays State University for 20 years and have seen many regulations passed by the Kansas State Department of Education, including the opening of an alternative licensure pathway in 2003.
The new law that goes into effect July 1 that will allow schools to hire people with degrees and backgrounds in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering, math) concerns me for the reasons Lowry pointed out: They will not be expected to have or obtain educational foundations in such areas as how to develop a lesson plan, classroom management, working with diverse and exceptional populations and differentiated instruction among the many other areas teacher education programs focus on.
The Legislature is seeming to try to solve a problem that doesn't exist -- with the exception of a few instances when an appropriate educator cannot be found. There already is an alternative licensure route in place in Kansas called Transition to Teaching (T2T) that initially was developed by KSDE and has been flourishing for the past 11 years. This program allows someone with a bachelor's degree in a specific content area or the equivalent major (all secondary areas, not just STEM) to be hired to teach that subject under a restricted teaching license, providing they have passed the content test required by KSDE. The key differentiating factor from the new regulation is during the T2T program, they receive 24 credit hours of specific pedagogy while on the job.
FHSU's program has grown to include 360 people who have completed the program and been hired in more than 160 school districts in Kansas -- the largest alternative licensure program in Kansas. The feedback we receive from teachers going through the T2T program is they are confident in their content knowledge, but they need help with the "how to teach and manage a classroom" part.
I believe there is a specific hierarchy in the hiring process: Fully licensed teachers who have completed a teacher education program is the goal. If that search does not meet the need, then Transition to Teaching is a viable alternative for quality teaching and education.
The last choice should be the person hired with no education training and no plans to obtain it.