Kansas revising teacher licensure process

teacher school education

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas education officials are preparing new regulations aimed at helping school districts hire instructors to meet the growing demand for technical education.

The proposed changes, being written by the state Department of Education, would create rules for private-sector professionals to receive licenses to teach skills in public schools. Individuals receiving the licenses could then teach on a full- or part-time basis once their expertise — either through industry certification or career experience — is verified.

Susan Helbert, assistant director for the state’s licensed personnel report, said Monday the changes will go to the State Board of Education in April, and then face the legal review process and public hearings. The goal is the new regulations in place by the time districts begin making staff decisions for the 2014-15 school year.

“We’ve been working on these regulations for the last couple of years with input from a variety of people in the field,” Helbert said.

Districts have seen more demand for technical education since 2011, when Kansas created an incentive program to help high school students accelerate their education to fill industry needs, earning certification in technical fields as well as college credit.

Helbert said the state already had a number of credentialed individuals teaching in new career and technical education pathways who haven’t followed the traditional teacher preparation path.

“This will fulfill the need in those districts where the number of students that they have may not merit hiring a full-time teacher,” she said.

The goal of the 2011 laws were to provide a readily available workforce to meet growing demands in manufacturing and other industries for trained workers. High schools can receive $1,000 bonuses from the state for each student who completes the program and earns industry certification.

Education department staff is proposing that board members change the regulations to allow a three-year, renewable part-time teaching permit for people to be issued to with industry-recognized certification or other experience in specialized industries.

Gov. Sam Brownback and the chairs of the House and Senate education committees last week selected McPherson and Concordia as the first two districts to be granted status as innovative school districts. They were the initial ones chosen under a law passed in 2013 aimed at encouraging districts to find creative ways to boost student achievement in exchange for relaxing some state regulations.

One common theme among the applicants was the need for flexibility in teacher licensing, especially in technical fields.

“That’s the way to move forward some of the education policy needs as driven by the local school districts. There isn’t a policy agenda here,” Brownback said. “What there is, is a very practical agenda of what do we need to teach our students better.”

Up to 29 of the state’s 285 districts can be identified as innovative. The McPherson and Concordia districts superintendents will select the next applicants.

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