Our View: Taking steps to grow ranks of teachers
The Lawrence Journal-World, in an editorial Tuesday, said:
Proposed adjustments to the Kansas licensing requirements for teachers seem to be a reasonable way to try to solve the shortage of teachers in key academic areas.
Members of the Kansas State Board of Education are scheduled to review and vote this week on two measures that would make it easier for educators to be licensed in Kansas. One would remove a requirement that out-of-state teachers have earned a 2.5 grade-point average in college, and the other would allow a teacher who is licensed in one science subject to teach another science subject by passing a state exam.
The grade-point requirement currently applies to all out-of-state teachers regardless of the number of years they have taught. Kansas Department of Education officials say that performance and experience are far more important than a grade-point average -- perhaps earned decades earlier -- in judging a teacher's qualifications.
Allowing teachers to handle additional science teaching areas by passing content tests also seems a reasonable way to help school districts deal with the current shortage of teachers in science and math. The new standard would allow, for instance, a biology teacher to teach physics or chemistry after passing a test in that area. While it might be ideal for teachers to have additional course work in the subject areas, good teachers who are strong in one area of science usually have a solid basis for successfully teaching other science classes. No matter what subject teachers specialize in, they are constantly having to update their knowledge in that area.
Neither of these proposals is likely to have a significant impact on the quality of Kansas teachers. In fact, in some cases, it may open doors to even more qualified and successful teachers to enter Kansas classrooms. It is of concern, however, that the state is having to look at various steps primarily to help local districts deal with teacher shortages in certain subject areas.
According to education officials, Kansas and other states are only at the beginning of a flood of teacher retirements that will have a significant impact on public schools. Replacing this dedicated group of teachers will demand a number of new strategies, likely to include additional peer support and higher salaries -- not to mention acknowledging teachers as respected professionals who play a vital role in the growth and development of future generations.
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