Board advances licensure plan

Members of the State Board of Education on Thursday granted preliminary approval to a new system of teacher certification that has drawn fire from some Idaho teachers.

The certification system in question was finalized last month by the Career Ladder / Tiered Licensure Committee working under the State Board of Education. That committee is tasked with implementing recommendations issued a year ago by Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education.

Plans are detailed and complex, but essentially call for two tiers of teacher certification. The first is a three-year, nonrenewable residency certificate for teachers just starting out in the profession. The second is a professional certificate for teachers who have more than three years of experience and meet eligibility, student growth and performance standards.

Within the professional tier, there is a standard professional certificate and a master professional certificate.

linda clark
Linda Clark

There is also a contingent professional certificate for teachers who do not meet all renewal requirements of the standard professional certificate and an interim certificate for educators moving to Idaho from out of state.

“This is leading edge reform,” said West Ada Superintendent Linda Clark, who serves as co-chair of the Tiered Licensure Committee. “We have spent a lot of time as a committee looking at research and best practices and teaching with other states.”

As the proposal stands now, teacher evaluations, student growth and performance standards are tied to a teacher’s ability to earn a professional certificate and advance between the tiers.

Otter’s task force called for marrying a tiered system of teacher certification to a new career ladder form of teacher pay allowing teachers to earn $40,000, $50,000 or $60,000 depending on which certificate they possess.

However, leaders of the Idaho Education Association teachers’ union have argued since May that a teacher’s license or certificate should not be tied to educator evaluations performed at the local level.

IEA members opposed the evaluations rule in committee meetings, but nobody spoke on the subject as the State Board considered the proposal Thursday.

Even though board members granted preliminary approval, the certification proposal still needs to clear several hurdles before it becomes effective.

State Board members are opening a 21-day public comment window to accept input on the pending rule. They tentatively plan a special September meeting to collect feedback, and will likely voted on the proposed rule in November.

emma atchley
Emma Atchley

If board members grant approval in November, the rule would head to the Legislature, where it could be adopted or rejected. If approved, it would become effective after the 2015 Legislature adjourns.

Board members were unanimously in granting preliminary approval during Thursday’s meeting, held on Idaho State University’s Pocatello campus.

“We all know this is a sea change in the way deal with our folks and instruction in schools,” Board President Emma Atchley said.

In other action Thursday, members of the State Board approved a consolidation plan for the North Gem and Grace school districts. The move allows the districts’ leaders to bring the plans to residents of both communities for approval. In order to be approved, a majority of voters in both Bancroft and Grace will have to vote in favor of consolidation.