Hundreds pack tiered licensure hearing

POCATELLO – Hundreds of educators and stakeholders filled an Idaho State University ballroom Tuesday to voice their concerns over tiered licensure.

Oct. 7 tiered licensureMore than 25 teachers spoke, and all but one opposed the proposal – often vigorously.

The forum ran for more than two hours, but State Board of Education member Richard Westerberg summed up their sentiment in 14 words.

“What you’re all telling us today is you think this thing sucks swamp water,” he said.

This summer, a State Board of Education subcommittee developed the framework for tiered licensure based on a unanimous 2013 recommendation from Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education.

The proposal would create two basic certification levels — an initial three-year residency certificate and a professional certificate for teachers with more than three years’ experience who meet licensure standards.

Within that structure, a master professional certificate and contingent certificate would also be available.

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Teachers would advance based on several factors, including student achievement and growth on assessments, meeting proficiency standards on local evaluations and meeting student learning objectives.

The evaluations and student performance measures were two flashpoints Tuesday.

“When the focus turns to test scores, we can lose sight of the fact that we are teaching children,” Idaho Falls teacher Misty Taylor said. “That’s the reason we are here.”

Idaho Falls teacher Mary Robinson worried she would never earn a master certificate and higher pay under the system — despite her advanced degree and years of service — because she teaches students with cognitive impairments.

“Maintaining skills is paramount, “ Robinson said. “My students will probably be basic.”

State Board of Education staffers told her that she could set her own students’ growth goals based on abilities and needs, but Robinson still held concerns.

Twin Falls teacher and education association member Peggy Hoy also voiced opposition.

“Evaluation is meant to be a tool to help teachers improve on their teaching,” Hoy said. “This appears to be tool that could be used to punish a teacher.”

Westerberg said he agreed with the concerns, but stressed getting legislators to free up more money for teacher pay would require additional accountability measures.

Idaho Falls teacher Doug Bitter welcomed the call for higher teacher pay through the related career ladder salary proposal, but he also expressed reservations about evaluations.

Bitter said making $40,000 as a beginning teacher would eliminate the need for a second job that kept him up until 11 p.m. the night before.

“If I could get this pay, I don’t mind jumping through some hoops,” Bitter said, “if it makes sense and doesn’t hurt us as teachers and is a good way.”

The proposal is expected to go before the State Board in November.

Board members could approve it, reject it or change it. If it is approved, it would go forward to the Legislature, which would have the option of rejecting it.

Rep. Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, and Sen. Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello, appeared to be the only legislators who attended the forum.

“I think there is a lot of work that needs to be done on this thing,” VanOrden said afterward.

Lacey voiced similar concerns, and said there is no certainty more funding for pay would be approved by the Legislature.

The State Board has scheduled two additional hearings on the proposal:

  • Oct. 14, 7 p.m., Lewiston, Lewis-Clark State College, Meriwether Lewis Hall, Room 100.
  • Oct. 21, 7 p.m., Meridian, Mountain View High School, lecture hall.

A 21-day public comment period covering the proposal opened last week. The comment window closes Oct. 22. Written comments may be emailed to Tracie Bent at the State Board, who will enter them into the record.

Further reading

Opinion piece written by Linda Clark, superintendent of the West Ada School District, and a co-chair of the committee that developed the proposal.

Opinion piece written by Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr.

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