State education leader defends teacher-licensing proposals

Indiana schools chief Tony Bennett on Tuesday dismissed criticism of his plan to revamp the state’s teacher licensing standards,
saying some in higher education oppose it because they fear how they eventually could be affected.

Bennett told
members of the Indiana Education Roundtable, an advisory group that includes lawmakers, educators and business leaders, that
his proposed changes are needed to help bring more top-notch teachers into Indiana’s schools.

"We have to
have a newer method of preparing our teachers," he told the gathering.

The roundtable met one day after representatives
of several education colleges offered scathing criticism of Bennett’s proposals at the last of three public hearings on the

They said the plan had been inadequately researched, would not improve the quality of the state’s teachers,
was moving along too quickly and urged the state to slow things down.

Bennett rejected that criticism at Tuesday’s

"There is really no need to slow down. Right now we should be more concerned if we’re not speeding
up. I think it is the time to act," he said.

After the meeting on the IUPUI campus, Gov. Mitch Daniels defended
the licensing proposals, saying testimony before the board showed the revisions proposed by Bennett are "long overdue."

"Today we heard that there’s no time to waste. This is absolutely headed in the right direction," Daniels

The governor also said he did not see a need for more public hearings on the matter, as critics have called
for, because the Indiana Department of Education had collected "a ton of input" on Bennett’s proposals.

Representatives of education schools say the Department of Education in recent years has moved away from dictating the number
of classes taken and should not get back in the business of regulating a college curriculum.

Bennett contends education
schools have piled on too many classes on pedagogy, or how to teach, and that limits are needed.

His teacher licensing
proposal would reduce the amount of required courses on how to teach and require prospective secondary school teachers to
major in a subject area, such as math or English, and earn a minor in education.

It also would require elementary
education majors to take no more than 30 college credit hours in pedagogy.

During a meeting with reporters after
Tuesday’s meeting, Bennett said he hopes the Indiana Professional Standards Board can approve his licensing proposals by year’s

He said many higher education opponents of his plan worry how the proposed changes will affect them and are
engaging in a turf war.

"The higher education community believes they are the keepers of quality and when
you have been part of a system that does not work, it’s hard sometimes to face," Bennett said.

During Tuesday’s
meeting, Patrick Mapes, the state’s director of educator licensing, said Bennett’s proposed licensing changes have pared the
state’s regulations for teacher preparation and licensure from more than 150 pages to about 70.

Mapes said previous
rules have allowed some teachers to end up teaching subjects they are not fully versed in and should not be teaching.

"They have had a couple of courses and that was enough to qualify them under past rules to teach that subject area,"
he said.

Ariela Rozman, chief executive officer of The New Teacher Project, a national nonprofit in New York, told
the roundtable that Indiana was moving in the right direction and should take even more steps to shake up its teacher licensing

Rozman said many of the nation’s schools treat excellent teachers and poorly skilled teachers the same,
and that lackluster educators are rarely identified or asked to improve their skills.

"Our kids are failing,
our schools are failing, but our teachers are doing great," she said.

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