Lawmakers Move Bill To Get More Teachers Into Schools

Jan 31, 2018

With a teacher shortage in the state, lawmakers want to help license more teachers by waiving some testing requirements some educators see as a barrier to getting into the classroom.

Shon Harris says he’s had trouble passing the math requirement for his elementary school teacher license. In part, because it includes material he won’t even teach his fourth grade students.

“It goes all the way up to high school geometry, despite the fact that most of the skills on the test won’t be taught in the elementary classroom,” Harris says.

So lawmakers want to fix that. A bill approved by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee would let the State Department of Education waive some content testing requirements. Specifically, if a teacher fails a content exam twice, and has already completed a student teaching experience. But new teachers would only be eligible for a license if they also maintained at least a “B” average in their teacher prep coursework.

Teachers with waived exam requirements would also be required to achieve a certain number of professional development points before renewing their license, and participate in a mentorship program.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick says this could help ease the state’s teacher shortage.

“We are at the point where we are starting to cut opportunities for kids, programs for kids, because we do simply not have folks who can be in the classroom,” she says.

Lawmakers also added a section to the bill for schools to offer supplemental pay. It says schools can offer more money to special education or STEM teachers. McCormick says those are some of the highest need areas for finding and keeping qualified educators.