Education Dept may change teacher certification rules

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(Host) The Vermont Department of Education wants to change the way some teachers in Vermont are licensed. The department says many of the proposed changes are designed to bring better qualified teachers into Vermont’s schools.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) The Department of Education says the proposed changes in teacher licensing have been brewing for a long time. Manuela Fonseca is the department’s professional standards coordinator:

(Fonseca) “A lot of the impetus for this is basically, we were finding that what we had on the books was not enabling us to be doing what we needed to be doing in order to move things ahead.”

(Zind) Fonseca says if anything, a growing shortage of qualified teachers, not the federal No Child Left Behind Act, is driving many of the proposals. For example, one proposed change would make it easier for out of state teachers with non-traditional degrees to get a Vermont teacher’s license.

If the new proposals are adopted, the department hopes the result will be better qualified teachers. The No Child Left Behind Act requires that in three years, all teachers be licensed. Right now 10% of Vermont’s teachers don’t have the right qualifications. Many are lacking the proper endorsements for the course they’re teaching. A few don’t have teacher’s licenses at all. They’ve been granted waivers by the state. The number of people teaching under a waiver has grown dramatically.

Under the new proposals, the department wants to do away with the waiver system. The waivers would be replaced by two new categories. One is a provisional license. This would require prospective teachers to meet certain standards and to eventually become fully licensed. The department also wants to issue emergency licenses. These could go to anyone over eighteen who has a high school education. Fonseca says the emergency license is meant as a last resort.

(Fonseca) “It’s really a safety net, so that we don’t put schools in positions where they can’t find anyone who even meets the provisional license that that class would have to be cancelled.”

(Zind) Angelo Dorta is president of the Vermont chapter of the National Education Association, which represents teachers. Dorta says he supports many of the proposed licensing changes. But he thinks the emergency license is a bad idea. He says it will bring people into the classroom who have no experience in education.

(Dorta) “The idea that you can just have someone in there as an adult without that kind of background and without that kind of commitment to the profession and to the goals of that school district, just seem to us to be unnecessary.”

(Zind) The Department of Education says it wants feedback on the proposals. It’s holding a series of public hearings this week in White River Junction, Colchester and Rutland.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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