Tiered licensure changes may be in works

Nothing has been finalized, but the State Board of Education is considering several changes to a controversial tiered teacher licensure plan.

It’s unclear whether the State Board will make a decision on the plan — in current or revised form — when it meets Thursday afternoon.

State Board of Education member Rod Lewis, right, discusses the tiered licensure plan with Highland Joint School District trustee Nathan Stigum.

State Board member Rod Lewis outlined the possible changes Wednesday, speaking at the Idaho School Boards Association’s annual convention in Boise. Lewis is co-chairman of a working group that has been examining the proposal — which would overhaul the way teachers are assessed, and would tie to a career ladder system designed to boost pay for starting teachers and veteran teachers alike.

The plan has drawn a chorus of criticism from teachers and administrators alike, and the possible changes appear to be an attempt to blunt some of the opposition:

  • Beginning or “residency” teachers would still be evaluated at the local level, with evaluations based on student growth. But under one possible rule change, teachers who were unsatisfied with their local evaluation would be able to send additional evidence to the State Department of Education for review. Many educators have criticized the idea of tying licensure to local evaluations.
  • The State Board may consider ways to reward teachers who receive advanced degrees. Educational credentials, a linchpin of the current teacher salary structure, do not factor into the current tiered licensure proposal.
  • Tests such as the Idaho Reading Indicator and the new Smarter Balanced assessment could be used as a criteria to measure student growth. But the State Board may allow evaluators to decide whether they want to use test scores as a yardstick. Critics have said the new Smarter Balanced is unproven, and have said that the IRI is not a reliable measure of student growth.
  • In another possible change, more experienced teachers working under a “professional” license would still be subject to accountability measures. But those measures would be used solely to determine pay raises under the new career ladder — and would not affect teaching certificates. Critics have questioned whether the Legislature will fund a $175 million salary ladder. Tying accountability measures to the career ladder is one way to address this, said Lewis.

West Ada School District Superintendent Linda Clark, co-chairwoman of the State Board’s tiered licensure committee, put in a pitch for the change. She said the plan is the right way for Idaho to reward its best teachers. “My confidence is this system will work,” she told ISBA members, “because it will have withstood this public scrutiny.”

The State Board will discuss possible changes Thursday, but Lewis wouldn’t predict whether the board will vote on a final plan at that time.

“(That’s) not clear,” Lewis said.

However, Lewis was adamant about the timing. The Legislature is open to making a significant boost teacher pay — so he believes the State Board needs to have a plan ready to present when lawmakers convene in January. “There’s momentum in this process that we’ve not seen before.”

ISBA members are expected to vote Friday morning on a resolution opposing tiered licensure.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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