Pro teachers: Districts must be cautious with unlicensed instructors


Kansas is inviting people who don't know how to teach to take over some of the state's classrooms. What could go wrong?

Kansas is inviting people who don't know how to teach to take over some of the state's classrooms. What could go wrong?

Some of the newbies likely will turn out to be naturals.

But any students who end up losing in the gamble should complain first to the Legislature. It pre-empted the State Board of Education's own work on the issue by including eased licensure among the ideological policy sweeteners in the court-ordered legislation addressing funding inequities.

... Earlier this month the state board approved temporary teacher licensure regulations, which are now the subject of a public comment period.

Under the changes, school districts can hire people to teach science, math, engineering, computer technology, accounting and finance in grades 8-12 if they have a bachelor's degree in any of those subjects and five years of work experience. People can be hired for vocational education who have an industry-recognized certificate and at least five years of work experience in the subject they would teach. ...

There's a lot to be said for bringing real-world experience into the classroom. Some select flexibility may be warranted to help fill certain openings, especially in math and science. But the sweeping change assumes districts will know which wannabe teachers to bet on without the seal of approval of an education degree.

And like the part of the bill that ended due-process protection by removing K-12 educators from the legal definition of "teacher," the measure looks like a dig at teachers and pedagogy. It wrongly suggests that firsthand knowledge of course content is all that matters, and that anybody can manage and teach a classroom full of middle or high schoolers of varying levels of skill and motivation. ...

The districts eager for the licensure flexibility will need to exercise it with care, ensuring that the untrained teachers have lots of scrutiny as well as help.

If Kansas had to go this route, the state board should have been allowed to lead the way rather than be forced to implement a Statehouse mandate. And in the future, state leaders might allow for the possibility that such anti-teacher laws, along with the state's 42nd-in-the-nation teacher pay, have something to do with Kansas' teacher shortages.

-- The Wichita Eagle

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