The Iowa Board of Educational Examiners wants to allow people with at least five years of work experience to become math or science teachers, but some legislators and the state teachers union are railing against the plan.
George Maurer, executive director of the Board of Educational Examiners, says the proposal is a response to the hiring difficulties school administrators face. “To address the shortage areas which are math and science and music and foreign language,” Maurer says.
Under the plan, schools would be able to hire scientists. engineers, musicians or someone who’s fluent in a foreign language if the school year has begun and the district hasn’t been able to find a licensed teacher to teach those courses. Christy Hickman, a lawyer for the Iowa State Education Association, says Iowa kids deserve a trained teacher.
“They shouldn’t have to be the guinea pigs while this person gets up to speed on things that they should know when they enter the classroom,” Hickman says, “classroom management, how to develop curriculum, teach lessons.”
The proposal was submitted to the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee on Tuesday, and Senator Tom Courtney, a Democrat from Burlington, argued it’s up to legislators, not bureaucrats, to make this kind of a decision.
“I think we’re lowering the standards in Iowa,” Courtney said. “And I, for one, am not going to put up with it.”
The superintendent of Burlington schools told legislators she struggled this past summer to hire two high school math teachers and was finally able to find two certified teachers in the first week of August, just barely in time for the start of school on August 18th. The executive director of the Board of Educational Examiners told legislators many Iowa school administrators aren’t that lucky and it’s time to find an alternative.
“In a perfect world, I would not even present this to you, but that’s not the reality of what we’re dealing with,” Maurer said. “The reality is that there are chemistry, physics, math teachers that aren’t available.”
The lawyer for the teacher’s union argues schools have the option to set up a sharing arrangement with a neighboring school that has a certified teacher or turn to instructors at the local community college rather than choose a person with no classroom experience.
“We would hope that these are very knowledgable professionals, but they’re not professional teachers,” Hickman told legislators, “and today where our focus is so much on student achievement we’re sitting here proposing a rule that would put non-educators in our classrooms.”
Under the proposal, the brand new instructors would be allowed to teach for up to three years and they’d be required to take classes in teaching methods and classroom management while they’re leading elementary, junior high and high school classes.