Daniel Bergman: Teacher-licensure change not in best interest of children, state

04/24/2014 12:00 AM

04/23/2014 5:41 PM

While much discussion of Kansas legislative action on school funding has focused on issues of teacher tenure, another item needing attention is the added language that extends teaching licensure to individuals who have STEM-related backgrounds (science, technology, engineering, math) but no preparation or experience in teaching.

Such a change is problematic and dangerous to our quality of education in Kansas.

We would not simply give a medical license to someone with a biology degree. We would expect a doctor or medical professional to have extensive preparation and training in the specific skills and principles of medicine, ethics and patient care. In the same way, we must hold our classroom teachers to high expectations of formal preparation and training in the pedagogical skills, professional responsibilities and psychological principles of learning and teaching.

Current teacher-licensure requirements include extensive preparation and course work in both content (science, math, etc.) and education (pedagogy, psychology and learning, methods, assessment, management, etc.). Extensive research throughout history has found that both areas are necessary for effective teaching and successful student learning.

The Kansas State Department of Education currently requires a minimum of 30 credit hours of content course work (such as science, math) for prospective teachers seeking licensure to teach a particular subject. In most cases, teacher-preparation programs in universities and colleges require even more credit hours and course work in content subjects.

For example, Wichita State University requires 43 credit hours of chemistry and related science courses for the chemistry education (sixth through 12th grades) licensure program. Students often are within a handful of classes from getting a second degree in straight chemistry content. In some instances, students complete degrees in both science education and science content.

In other words, new teachers enter the classroom with more than sufficient preparation in their content field.

If concerns arise about producing enough teachers to fill high-needs classrooms (STEM areas), there are multiple endeavors in Kansas that recruit and prepare individuals to become effective educators.

•  WSU has one of the leading alternative-licensure programs in the nation, called Transition to Teaching, in which individuals who already possess a content degree and work experience can be classroom teachers while completing education-related course work (pedagogical methods, psychology, etc.).
•  Pittsburg State University also has an alternative-licensure option, in which individuals with a bachelor’s degree in a content field can earn a master of arts in teaching along with their teaching license.
•  Another alternative program is UKanTeach at the University of Kansas, in which individuals complete a degree in science or math content and complete a modified teaching certificate program.
•  Kansas State University offers a graduate certificate program in which individuals already possessing a bachelor’s degree in their content area can earn a teaching license in one year.

These are just some examples of the many options in Kansas for preparing teachers with both subject content and teaching skills.

Kansas leaders and citizens should thoroughly study this issue and consider the ramifications of filling our schools with individuals who have no formal preparation in child psychology, adolescent development, teaching methods and strategies, foundations of education, or professional ethics. Such a scenario is not in the best interest of our children and state.

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