Start changes teachers’ licensing requirements
TOPEKA - Hoping to help school districts cope with teacher shortages, the Kansas State Board of Education passed licensing changes last Wednesday that will allow greater flexibility in who can teach what.
"We think it will reduce a little bit the barriers that we see in the teacher licensure system without doing anything to reduce the quality of the people," said Martha Gage, who is director of teacher education and licensure for the Kansas State Department of Education.
Gage said changes are needed because Kansas schools are "facing some critical shortages," especially in science and math instruction.
The state board had a public hearing Tuesday on the proposed changes and voted on the recommendations Wednesday. The proposals have been in the works for more than one year.
For example, a person who is licensed to teach one subject at the high school level can't teach another subject unless they have returned to school to be specifically trained in that subject.
The proposed changes would allow that teacher to teach another subject after they pass a competency test. Oftentimes teachers, through their minor studies in college or continuing education, become proficient in more than one subject, officials said.
"This will have the potential to assist both teachers and school boards to be better able to put fully licensed teachers in the classrooms at the middle school and high school level," said Peg Dunlap of the Kansas-National Education Association.
Gage said the changes also would allow teachers who are licensed to teach one of the sciences - such as biology - to teach another science subject, such as chemistry, if they pass the competency exam.
However, many school districts in Johnson County, including De Soto USD 232, aren't feeling the teacher shortages that smaller districts and those in western Kansas are feeling.
"We are very fortunate that being a school district in Johnson County that we are able to attract some very highly qualified candidates that will exceed the very minimum requirements by the state of Kansas," said Mark Schmidt, who will move July 1 from principal of Lexington Trails Middle School to human resources director for De Soto USD 232.
Schmidt said De Soto USD 232 typically has a very large pool of applicants to choose from. The district has received 20 to 40 applications for certain positions that are open for the 2007-2008 school year, Schmidt said.
However amount of experience and grade point averages do matter in order to compete with other applicants in a large pool such as De Soto's.
"We are looking for folks that meet the state's requirements," Schmidt said. "That is a minimal standard that we use, but from there our requirements go up based on how many applicants are in the pool."
-- Leann Sulzen contributed to this story.