State Board approves tiered licensure changes

(UPDATED, 9:22 a.m., with comments from Idaho Education Association.)

The State Board of Education unanimously approved major changes to its tiered teacher licensure proposal Thursday.

Consistent with the controversy surrounding the plan, the board’s late Thursday afternoon meeting packed a Statehouse meeting room. The rewrite drew favorable initial reviews from some critics of the plan, but the Idaho Education Association voiced continued concerns.

Nov. 13 Tiered Licensure
State Board of Education members Emma Atchley and Rod Lewis discuss changes to tiered licensure Thursday at the Statehouse.

The rewrites came a month after a series of State Board public hearings that drew overwhelmingly negative feedback. Among the central concerns: teachers objected to tying their licenses and livelihoods to locally produced evaluations and test scores.

The new rule contains a host of changes:

  • The board shifted from three tiers to just two – an initial residency tier and a professional tier for educators with more than three years’ experience.
  • For professional teachers, all performance requirements and accountability provisions have been taken out of the licensing plan. They will be pushed over to the related career ladder pay proposal — which also will be updated later this month.
  • For teachers to renew their professional certificate, they would need only obtain six education credits during a five-year span, as is the case today.
  • Within the residency tier, the Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI) and ISAT by Smarter Balanced assessment test would only be counted as options for determining student growth – not requirements.
  • The board scaled back an observation requirement for teachers in the residency tier. The requirement drops from two observations to one – since some small districts were concerned about being able to afford or find two trained evaluators.
  • If beginning teachers are unable to advance to a professional tier in three years, district officials would be able to grant a one-year extension to meet proficiency and student growth benchmarks. These teachers would also be able to submit additional evidence to make their case.

Boise Democratic Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, a retired educator who served on the State Board’s tiered licensure subcommittee, said she supports the changes adopted Thursday. In subcommittee, Ward-Engelking voted against tying tiered licensure to the $175 million career ladder. She was concerned Idaho will not entice new teachers without first putting money into teacher pay — and she still harbors this concern.

“(The board) listened to some of the major concerns of teachers and administrators and made some excellent adjustments in the tiered licensure plan we now have now before us,” she said after the meeting. “It is absolutely improved. Now we really just need to make sure we’ve got the money to make this attractive (to teachers).”

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IEA public policy director Matt Compton told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that the teachers’ group still has major concerns. “Teachers and parents and school board members all have been saying we should come back to the table … bring more teachers to the table,” he said. “There’s still time. We need to slow this down. That’s certainly something that has been ignored in this rule here today.

“We still have a very serious concern about connecting evaluations to professional certification.”

Boise School District superintendent Don Coberly also applauded the changes, though he emphasized he needs to read the new proposal carefully. He remains concerned about evaluation criteria, attracting experienced out-of-state teachers and withholding a beginning teacher’s certificate if he or she cannot meet the requirements to advance to the professional tier.

“It is a much-improved version, but there will still be some things to work out,” Coberly said. “Hopefully the implentation team will take care of some of that.”

Linda Clark — superintendent of the West Ada School District and the co-chairwoman of the subcommittee that developed the original tiered licensure plan — mouthed the word “wow” from her front row seat as board members approved changes.

She said she was impressed with the changes, and the ability to keep tiered licensure in place and adopt clear guidelines for colleges and universities to follow when educating new teachers.

“We made a huge step forward,” Clark said. “We have two important gatekeepers of teacher quality now, and I appreciate all of the efforts the board has made to listen and be responsive to testimony.”

Thursday’s meeting filled a Statehouse basement committee room to capacity, with some members of the public and media watching through an open doorway in the hallway. Those in attendance included state Reps. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls; Sue Chew, D-Boise; and John Gannon, D-Boise; newly elected state representative and New Plymouth district Superintendent Ryan Kerby; and Idaho Business For Education President/CEO Rod Gramer.

Incoming state superintendent Sherri Ybarra planned to attend the hearing, but snowy road conditions prevented her from making the trip from Mountain Home safely, her campaign spokeswoman said.

The new tiered licensure rule will be published by the Department of Administration, and forwarded to the Legislature in January for consideration. In order to go into effect, it need only pass the House or Senate education committee.

The board will meet again later this month to change the career ladder to reflect changes in the tiered licensure rule. No date has been set.

The tiered licensure proposal stems from the August 2013 recommendations from Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education. The proposal garnered unanimous support at that point. A State Board subcommittee spent this spring and summer crafting plan details.

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